Nepal set tough target against IndiaThe two have met 19 times in the past, with Nepal winning twice, losing 13 matches and drawing on four occasions.
Nepal national football team has vowed to come up with a changed mentality with the ambition of winning when they vie against South Asian giants India in first of the two friendly matches scheduled for Thursday at the Dasharath Stadium, Tripureshwar.
"We used to be physically strong in the past, but we are also mentally strong this time," said national captain and goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu crediting coach Abdullah Almutairi for the change. "In my 13-year experience of playing for the national team, this is the first occasion we are both mentally and physically strong."
Despite the mental toughness of the team as claimed by Limbu and his coach Almutairi, India are the team to beat in the South Asian subcontinent and looking at the past records India hold superiority over the home team.
The two sides have played 19 times in the past with Nepal winning twice, losing 13 matches and drawn in four games. They stand 105th in the FIFA rankings while Nepal are placed in 168th position.
"We are ready for the game and we will not play for a draw. We must win both the games and make the Nepali people proud of their team," said national team's Kuwaiti coach Almutairi whose side had more than two-month long training sessions.
"We will not care about history and rankings. We will not play defensive games. They are a very strong team and so are we. It will be a tough game for both the teams," said Almutairi who was appointed as the national team coach in April.
The friendlies are played to finetune the teams' preparations for SAFF Championship set to take place from October 1 to 16 in the Maldives.
Nepal's captain Limbu said the match would be a good platform for evaluation of the team ahead of the SAFF Championship. "We are in good shape after a two-month training. It will provide us an opportunity for self-evaluation a month before SAFF. We will definitely play to win and it is going to be a very tough encounter," said Limbu.
The match is being played to fine tune both the sides preparation for upcoming SAFF Championship set to take place from October 1 to 16 in Maldives
The Indian team, which arrived in Nepal on the back of two-week preparations, said that they hope for good and exciting football against Nepal. India's Croatian coach Igor Stimac said that he was happy with the team and the players were giving their best.
"Analysing the Nepali team, they have made certain progress in recent qualifiers (World Cup and Asian Cup). They showed they can play good football and they have improved a lot defensively," said Stimac, who was the member of the Croatian squad that finished third in the 1998 World Cup.
Reflecting on the overcast conditions, he said, “I hope that we don’t suffer heavy rains during the matches so that we can play some exciting football.”
Indian captain Sunil Chhetri, an Indian citizen of Nepali descent, said, "Nepal have always been difficult opponents for us. They are very competitive and the last time we played in Nepal in 2015, we had difficult times. I am sure we are going to face the same kind of difficulties," he said.
When asked if he had a special kind of feeling playing against Nepal, Chhetri said: "I have a soft corner for Nepal. But, it ends the moment I step on the pitch. My mother is from Nepal and a lot of my relatives live here. Whatever sporting culture and discipline has been inculcated is all because of my mom.”
Limbu to match Biraj Maharjan's record
Nepal skipper Kiran Kumar Limbu will equal former captain Biraj Maharjan's record of highest 73 caps for Nepal in the first friendly against India on Thursday.
Goalkeeper Limbu, who made his debut for the national team in 2008 AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers in Cambodia, said he was happy to represent Nepal. "Rather than making history for the highest caps, it gives me immense happiness to represent my country," said the glovesman. "The journey was not easy."
Almutairi resignation saga
Nepal's controversial Kuwaiti coach Almutairi, who had twice threatened to quit the hot seat via social media posts, refused to comment on the issue. "I don't think my social media posts are more important than the game, let's focus on the game," he said.
Limited spectators to be allowed for games
The friendly matches between Nepal and India will have a limited number of spectators, according to the organisers All Nepal Football Association (ANFA).
"We have received permission from the Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) to allow a limited number of spectators for the games. We will let in 5,100 spectators which is a third of the stadium’s capacity," said ANFA president Karma Tsering Sherpa.
According to Sherpa, the tickets will be sold online and only those who are either fully vaccinated or those bearing negative PCR reports issued within 48 hours of the games will be allowed.