With poor past records, Jordan clash a litmus test for Nepali footballNepal have to stop making minor defensive errors that have led to a haemorrhage of goals.
Following a 5-0 defeat down under against Australia last week, Nepal have reached Jordan for their fourth away group stage match under the World Cup and Asian Cup Joint Qualification tournament.
Having played against Jordan only two times, memories of the 9-0 demolition in the away fixture of the FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in 2011 are still fresh for team Nepal. Despite managing 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture at home, Nepal have a lot to do to produce anything but yet another drubbing in the tournament’s early stage as they have already conceded 12 goals, including a 7-0 thrashing from Kuwait while scoring only twice against Taiwan in their 2-0 victory.
The 98th position in the latest FIFA rankings for Jordan in itself is a disguise as the Western Asian nation had secured a 1-0 win against Australia at the group stage of the AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year. Jordan had crashed out from the Round of 16 following a 4-2 defeat in tiebreakers against Vietnam. For their recent results, Jordan settled for a goalless stalemate against Kuwait on Thursday. In addition to that, Jordan played against Paraguay in an international friendly in September, the South American giants are placed 40th in the FIFA rankings. This may come as a surprise to many, but Jordan were two goals ahead by the end of the first half though they eventually lost the match 4-2.
When Nepal take on Jordan at the Amman International Stadium on Tuesday, Nepal should also keep in mind that Jordan had managed a one-goal margin win against Taiwan, the side against whom Nepal had scored two, but football is simply about more than plain statistics.
Football analyst Sanjeev Mishra calls for more from the senior players in the squad for a positive result against Jordan. Mishra says, “Players like Rohit Chand and Kiran Chemjong who have made us proud with their heroics in leagues abroad have yet to shine. We have very high expectations from them for Nepal in major international matches and it was evident in the clash against Australia. If we are to have a good match against Jordan where the playing conditions are similar to that of Kuwait, both Chand and Chemjong have to play at their level best and inspire the other players on the field.”
Pointing out the loopholes of Nepal in the defeats against Kuwait and Australia, Mishra adds: “A defensive approach in any match can’t be termed negative. However, we did not see Nepal trying to steal the ball when sans possession or press the opposition players. Simply having a crowd of players in and around your own box only invites unnecessary troubles and unwanted confusions which end up hurting the scoreline as happened in our two defeats. The players must try and steal the ball, create counter-attacks and not give away the possession cheaply.”
Former national team coach Birat Krishna Shrestha who believes that attack is the best form of defense says, “A very defensive approach will only come back to haunt us as it certainly limits our goal scoring opportunities. Nepal in recent matches have struggled with sustaining the formation and shape, which has resulted in conceding early goals. When the team is chasing the result right from the early minutes, the players are bound to get demoralized. Our boys must play without any fear, stick to the tactics laid out by the coach and try and create more chances for the forwards. As wins in football are about scoring one goal more than the opponents, we can only relish that vantage if we create goal-scoring opportunities.”
Bharat Khawas, Nepal’s forward who had scored the equaliser against Jordan in the drawn match played at Dashrath Stadium back in 2011 but has not traveled with the team due to his personal engagements this time says, “Jordan are a very strong team and they will certainly be favoured by their home conditions and the support of the fans. Having said that, this match is also an opportunity for Nepal to earn the least of a precious point. We have to reduce the defensive errors that we’ve been making as of late.” Khawas went on to add that Nepal were yet to play all the home fixtures of the group stage and reminded that the team have been better when playing at their own backyard.
While Nepal’s recent displays may probably not be adequate to produce a satisfactory result, the experiences and learnings from playing against Australia must be put to effective use by the coaching staff and the players themselves. A positive attitude as identified by the analysts would help Nepal in terms of mentality as the team does not have much to lose given the way the points table is shaping up.