Nepal set sights on SAFF U-18 football title defenceNepal have won the previous two editions of the regional age-group tournament.
The two-time SAFF U-18 Championship winners Nepal aim to defend their title when the tournament kicks of on September 20 in Kathmandu.
The 25-member squad has started their closed-camp training in Pokhara from Sunday as part of their preparations for the event. The squad will be trimmed to 23 in due date. The squad trained at Bijaypur Army Barracks ground for two days but later moved on to Sahara Academy ground as the ground at the Army barracks needed some days to make it ready for training. Three coaching staffs and two officials are training the players.
Head coach Chet Narayan Shrestha said the team had to reach Pokhara for training as most of the grounds were not available in Kathmandu. “The weather and the training ground are good in Pokhara. Besides, players will also feel a sense of freshness when they train in such a fine weather,” said Shrestha.
Shrestha said Nepal’s preparation for the tournament has been good and the team aims to defend the title. “We really have a good attacking line. Midfielders gel well with the forwards and the defence is also good,” he said. “Except for a few reserve players at the defence, we have a good and a balanced team,” he added.
The team also includes Manish Dangi, who has previously played for South Korea’s U-17 team. Dangi, who plays as a forward, arrived in Nepal to play for his country and coach Shrestha said he is one of the star players in the team. The coach identifies India and Bangladesh as the other prime contenders for the title. “But every team is strong. They have become better than before,” he said.
The Nepali team played a practice match against Kaski district league champions Adarsha Yuwa Club, which they won 10-1 on Thursday. The team scored six in the first half and added four in the second in the game played at the Sahara Academy grounds. Coach Shrestha fielded a different set of players in each half. Nepali side will also play another friendly against Pokhara XI on Sunday.
The third edition of SAFF U-18 Championship is scheduled for September 20-29 at the Armed Police Force’s Club grounds in Halchowk. Nepal are pitted against Maldives and Bhutan in Group ‘A’ while India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are in Group ‘B’. Top two teams after round-robin league will make it to the semi-finals.
Hosts Nepal won the first edition in 2015 defeating India 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw. They also lifted the second edition held in Bhutan, defeating Bangladesh 2-0. The first time Nepal won the title was when the tournament was played as the U-19 event. The second in 2017, it was renamed at the U-18 tournament.
Goalkeepers: Bishal Sunar, Rohit Karki, Surya Adhikari, Pujan Hona
Defenders: Bishal Basnet, Randip Poudel, Padam Bhattarai, Sujan Sharma, Nabin Gurung, Roshan Dong, Elik Rumba, Anjan Maharjan
Midfielders: Sishir Lekhi, Dipesh Gurung, Roshan Rana Magar, Akash Budha Magar, Jay Gurung, Manish Thapa, Kushal Phuyal, Nitin Thapa
Forwards: Brijesh Chaudhary, Sachhu Gurung, Kailash Lamichhane, Darshan Gurung, Manish Dangi