Nepal take on mighty Australia todayThe Socceroos can cement their place atop Group ‘B’ with a victory while Almutairi’s side will not still be assured of a place in the next round of Asian qualifiers even if they bag an almost impossible win.
Nepal will vie against Asian powerhouse Australia in their last Group ‘B’ match of the joint qualifiers for the World Cup 2022 and Asia Cup 2023 at the Al Kuwait Sports Club Stadium in Kuwait City on Friday.
Group leaders Australia have already fulfilled their mission of qualifying into the third round of World Cup qualifiers and getting a direct spot for Asian Cup with two matches in hand. They are assured of at least top two finish including best four runners up among all eight groups in the qualifiers – the conditions required to progress into the next stage.
But victory over Nepal would confirm their place as table toppers before they vie against second placed Jordan in their last group match on June 15. Australia have maximum 18 points from six matches while Jordan have 13 points from as many games.
Unlike Australia, Nepal’s campaign for World Cup qualifier and direct entry into Asian Cup are already over. Nepal stand fourth in the five-team group with identical 2-0 victories over Chinese Taipei. Nepal’s ambition for third round of Asian Cup qualifiers as one of the best four teams of all eight groups will also be almost unfulfilled because the victory over bottom placed Chinese Taipei will not be counted.
In such a scenario Nepal sit at bottom and pointless among fourth placed teams of all eight groups. Even if Nepal perform an almost impossible task of beating Australia they need to hope for favourable outcomes in other groups for their entry into the next round of Asian qualifiers. The only other way remaining for Nepal is to go into the next round of Asian Qualifiers through playoffs. Bottom 11 teams of the qualifiers will vie for eight places available in the 24-team Asian Cup qualifiers.
The victory over Australia, who are fourth in the Asian rankings and 41st in the FIFA rankings, is almost impossible for Nepal who stand at 171st position in global rankings. Even a draw or getting on the scoresheet against Australia would be an achievement for Nepal as they have not scored a single goal against any opponents other than Chinese Taipei. Nepal faced a 5-0 drubbing by Australia in the first leg match played in Canberra in October 2019.
Despite the odds, Nepal’s Kuwaiti coach Abdullah Almutairi is likely to stick to the 4-3-3 formation as he doesn't have much to lose against one of the strongest teams of the continent. The Kuwaiti has picked a young squad for the qualifiers and he is likely to give debuts to some of the new faces against Australia.
“If everything goes well, they [new players] will play. I understand playing against Australia is going to be difficult but it is important for them to play," said Alumtairi at a pre-match conference on Thursday hinting that he might bring them as substitutes.
Among six new players he picked for the squad, midfielders Kamal Thapa, Suraj Jeu Thakuri and Aysuh Ghalan and goalkeeper Bishal Sunar have not debuted in the national shirt.
"Hopefully we shall play another good match against Australia. Our style of play has improved and we have been able to make our supporters happy," added Almutairi.
Australia coach Graham Arnold said that he would not take Nepal as easy opponents. “Their playing style has changed. They are a hard working team and it won’t be easy to play against them,” he said.
The match will kick off at 21:45 and will be telecast live on Kantipur Television.