Nepal expect winning results against Chinese TaipeiNepal are practically out of the World Cup qualifiers race but can still progress into the next round of Asian Cup qualifiers if they don’t drop to the bottom.
Nepali national football team and their newly appointed coach Abdullah Almutairi will have a realistic chance to deliver winning results against Chinese Taipei when they restart their campaign for the joint qualifiers of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup in Kuwait on Thursday.
Nepal, currently sitting second from bottom in the five-team Group ‘B’, are practically out of the World Cup qualifiers race but still have a chance to progress into next round of the Asian Cup qualifiers on condition that they don’t drop to the bottom of the table. Nepal will vie against Jordan and Australia in their remaining fixtures before the group stage wraps up.
Having enjoyed a 2-0 win over Chinese Taipei in the first leg in Taipei in September 2019—their only victory in the campaign, Nepal can hope to repeat the feat in the second leg at neutral venue Jaber al-Ahmad International Stadium. A win, a draw or even a two-goal margin defeat in the current scenario would guarantee Nepal’s place for the next stage of Asian Cup qualifiers but a winning result would be worth remembering.
Given the huge gap between Nepal and the other two teams in the group – Australia and Jordan, it would be a Herculean task to grab three points against them.
Unlike Nepal, Chinese Taipei would be looking to avenge the home defeat and boost their chances for a place in the next round of Asian Cup qualifying.
Nepal should have hosted the remaining matches at home after playing first four matches at away venues, but the matches were shifted to centralised venues due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Nepal played their home match against Kuwait in Thimphu due to the unavailability of an international standard stadium.
It has been 18 months since Nepal played their last match of the qualifiers in November 2019 in Thimphu. There have been a lot of changes in the squad as well. Kuwaiti national Almutairi replaced Johan Kalin as the head coach and only seven players of Kuwait match have retained their place in the squad. Coach Almutairi has picked a youthful squad and called up only nine players from the last squad that won the Three-Nations Cup late in March.
To fine tune their preparations for the qualifiers, Nepal played a friendly against Iraq in Basra and went on to lose 6-2. “There are plenty of positives to draw from the Iraq friendly despite the defeat,” Almutairi said in a virtual pre-match conference, adding that it would be difficult for both the sides to play in the hot weather condition of Kuwait.
"We want to secure fourth position to qualify for the Asian Cup qualifiers and for that we have to win the match tomorrow," he said.
The coach was also wary of the opposition. "They have new players and the coach is taking charge of his first match."
Chinese Taipei coach Vom Ca-nhum is also concerned about the hot weather in Kuwait. "We are having difficulties in adapting to the weather conditions, which is one of our biggest challenges."
Tagging Nepal as a balanced side in both defence and attack, Vom said, "Our key players and overseas players could not join because of the Covid-19 situation and I hope the new players can grasp this opportunity to prove themselves."
The two sides have played twice. Nepal played 1-1 draw in a June 2019 friendly and won 2-0 in the qualifiers. Forward Anjan Bista had scored both the goals in their victory while Avishek Rijal had grabbed the equaliser in the friendly.
Bista and debutant midfielder Manish Dangi were the scorers against Iraq on Saturday and are likely to start. Bista will probably pair with Rijal and Nawayug Shrestha in the attack while captain Kiran Limbu will take charge of the post.
Experienced defender Rohit Chand is expected to line up with Ananta Tamang, Suman Aryal and Dinesh Rajbanshi. Nepal’s defence line-up was vulnerable during the Iraq friendly and they must make improvements for a better outcome. Dangi, Santosh Tamang and Pujan Uperkoti are anticipated to start in the midfield.
Australia top the group with 12 points after playing four matches while Kuwait are level on 10 points with Jordan after playing equal five matches. Nepal are fourth with three points while Chinese Taipei are yet to win and lie bottom in the standings.
Nepal will take on Jordan on June 7 and Australia on June 11. All Nepal matches will be telecast live on Kantipur Television.
Nepal-Chinese Taipei match will kick off at 21:45.