Nepal face Bangladesh test in friendly match todayDespite short preparation, a year-long hiatus due to coronavirus and long list of absentees, Nepal are hopeful of good results against the home team.
Under strength Nepali team will come up with a fighting spirit when they return to competitive football after almost a year in the first of the two-match friendly against Bangladesh in Dhaka on Friday.
“Despite a very short training period and long list of absentees in the squad, we will try to get good results and perform our best,” Nepal’s caretaker head coach Bal Gopal Maharjan said at a pre-match conference in Dhaka on Friday. Maharjan took charge of the national team after Swedish head coach Johan Kalin was stuck in his country due to travel restrictions owing to the coronavirus.
Nepali sports has come to a complete standstill since March, when the country went under a nationwide lockdown. No domestic or international sports events have taken place ever since, barring a few martial arts shows which were performed virtually.
Nepal’s skipper Kiran Chemjong also complained of the short time for preparations. “We are ready to fight together as a team and are much excited to return to action after quite a long time despite a short preparation period. I hope the match will be highly competitive,” said the 30-year-old custodian whose side last played their competitive match against Kuwait on November 19 last year in their joint qualifiers match of the World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023.
Bangladesh are also playing their first match since October last year as they come into the match at the back of three-week training.
The Nepali football team trained for less than two weeks – a week in Nepal before four training sessions in Dhaka – for the friendlies named Mujib Borsho FIFA International Football Series 2020. Of the 35 players called for the training camp, seven tested positive for the coronavirus before the team flew to Bangladesh and star midfielder Rohit Chand was left out owing to Injury picked while training. Adding to the woes, yet another player was detected with the coronavirus in Dhaka on Wednesday. Apart from Chand, who plays for Persija Jakarta in Indonesia’s premier division league, three of the seven Covid-19 infected players were regular starters.
Even as Maharjan admitted that the long list of absentees would make it difficult for his team, he was confident of handling the situation. “The situation is different from the normal time and my players are improving day by day. The match would also be an opportunity for new players and replacements to show their talent,” said Maharjan, adding that he was wary of the Bangladesh threat.
Nepali team includes eight rookie players in Arik Bista, Bikash Khawas, Darshan Gurung, Deep Karki, Dilen Loktam, Pujan Uparkoti, Seshehang Aangdangbe and Chhiring Gurung. “We have played against Bangladesh many times in the past and they are a strong side. Apart from that, they will have home conditions and local supporters. But we have played against Bangladesh at the Bangabandhu stadium in the past as well and I believe in my players.”
The Bangladesh Football Federation has decided to allow around 8,000 spectators at the Bangabandhu Stadium having the capacity to seat 26,000 following FIFA’s safety guidelines.
Coach Maharjan and also his Bangladeshi counterpart Jamie Day of Britain believes that the match would be ideal to prepare for the upcoming match of joint qualifiers to be completed by June next year. Nepal are to play the remaining three matches of the joint qualifiers and Bangladesh four.
“The preparations have gone really well and the boys are training hard for the last three weeks. We are looking forward to getting back football in Bangladesh and there are lots of improvements in the players in the short span of time,” said the Brtion. “We are defensively good and our focus will be to improve on scoring departments.”
“Obviously, we want to win the game but my focus is to perform well and prepare the team for Qatar match [of joint qualifiers]. Nepal are good team with some good attacking players. They will be tough opponents to break down,” added Day, who will be without the service of defender Tariq Kaji due to an ankle injury picked at a recent training session.
Bangladesh skipper Jamal Bhuyan said that the focus was to get match fitness and win. “We have lost the last three matches against Nepal and we want to start a new chapter with win,” said the 30-year-old midfielder.
Nepal and Bangladesh have played 19 matches so far, out of which Nepal won six, lost 12 and drew one. But Nepal hold superior record in their recent outings. In the last five matches since 2011, Nepal have won three, lost one and drawn one match. In their last match, Nepal had defeated the home team 2-0 in the group stage of 2018 SAFF Championship at the Bangabandhu stadium.
In their last four matches of the joint qualifiers, Nepal have lost three and won one while Bangladesh lost three and drew one.