Nepal set sights on maiden international silverware in women's footballNepal made it to the final after finishing second behind Uzbekistan in the round-robin league.
Stakes will be higher for Nepal when they take on title favourites Uzbekistan in the final of the Nadezhda Cup women's football tournament in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday.
Going by the performance of the two teams in the tournament, it might take a monumental effort for Nepal to beat the Uzbeks, having lost to the opponents 2-0 in the four-team round-robin league. Nepali national women team have never won silverware since making a foray into the international football in 1986.
The Nepali team have made it to the finals in seven international meets but have never been able to pass the last barrier. In the past five SAFF Women's Championships, Nepal have advanced to the finals on four occasions. But in each of those finals, Nepal have conceded the title of the biennial tournament to their South Asian rivals India.
Women's football was only included from the 11th South Asian Games and Nepal eased their way into the finals on both the occasions. But yet again, they lost both the finals to India. Nepali women appeared on course to lift their first silverware in football when they edge out favourites India in the Hero Gold Cup in India this year. The victory over India was the first in the history of Nepali women's football. But they lost the title match 3-1 to Myanmar, prolonging their wait for the silverware.
Nepal coach Khadka will have yet another shot at making history on Thursday. "It's a wonderful opportunity for us to win a prestigious tournament in the Central Asian region. We will try our best to create history by lifting the trophy," said Khadka over the telephone. "We have been taking this tournament as preparations for the 13th South Asian Games but it allowed a chance to re-write history. Every member of the squad really motivated for Thursday's game."
Khadka was, however, aware of Uzbekistan's strength, saying that they were a tough nut to crack. "Ranking-wise they are way ahead of us. But anything is possible in football. We only lost against them in the league stage due to our mistakes. Otherwise, we had put in a valiant fight," he said, showing a bit concern over his team's defence and goalkeeping.
Revealing his plans for final, Khadka said: "As we have already played with them, we now know their key players. We will set strategy accordingly and try not to repeat the mistakes we committed in the group stage," he said.
Uzbekistan are placed in 44th position in the FIFA rankings, 57th spot ahead of Nepal who are at 101st place. They enjoyed cakewalk in their previous two games, defeating Tajikistan 12-0 and hosts Kyrgyzstan 9-0 to finish on top of the standings. The only competition they faced in the tournament was against Nepal. Nepal defeated Kyrgyzstan 8-2 and battled to a 1-0 win over Tajikistan in the league stage of the tournament. They advanced to the final finishing second behind Uzbekistan.