Women’s team to make international debut at Dasharath Stadium todayNepal, who have never lost against Bangladesh, will try to continue their dominance over the South Asian neighbour.
Unbeaten Nepali women's football team will try to give continuity to their dominance over Bangladeshi side when the home team mark their international debut at the Dasharath Stadium in the first of two international friendly matches on Thursday.
The Nepali women football team, who embarked their international journey in 1986 through AFC Women's Championship in Hong Kong, have not played a single international match at the Dasharath Stadium.
Out of six matches played against Bangladesh so far, Nepal have not lost a single one. The last encounter between them dates back to the 2019 SAFF Championship which Nepal won 3-0. While Nepal have won five encounters among six, they played 1-1 draw in Olympics Qualifier first round in Myanmar in 2018.
The women's team played only three international tournaments in the first 13 years, after they started their international journey in 1986. All of them were AFC Women's Championships—in 1986 and 1989 in Hong Kong and 1999 in the Philippines. The women's team did not play any international matches for the next 11 years until the 2010 SAG.
Though Nepal hosted Women's SAFF Championship in 2019 and a friendly match in 2016, they were not organised at the Dasharath Stadium. SAFF was played in Biratnagar and the friendly on the ANFA ground at Satdobato as the only international standard stadium was undergoing renovation following the 2015 earthquake.
Unlike in the past, Nepal will also be without their most prolific forward Sabitra Bhandari, the all time top scorer for the country and one of the most feared attackers of the sub-continent. She is nursing her anterior cruciate ligament injury she picked during women's league in February. Nepali team will be playing without her for the first time after her debut in the national jersey in Pakistan.
"Bhandari’s absence is a huge setback for the team. Playing without her is a mental as well as technical challenge. It's like Barcelona playing without Lionel Messi," said Nepal's Australian coach Gary Philips, who is taking charge of the national team for the first time. "But someone needs to take her position. We have 23 players in the squad and all of them will give their best."
Bangladesh coach Golam Robbani Choton said that the absence of Bhandari would give psychological relief to the defenders. "She is one of the best strikers of the South Asian region. It is sad that she is not in the team," said Choton.
Philips also added that the friendlies were a good opportunity for both Nepal and Bangladesh to prepare their teams for the AFC Women's Asia Cup 2022 qualifiers to take place in Uzbekistan later this month.
"Most of the players of our squad come from age teams and they are very young. They know each other very well and they have strong bonding as a team. I hope the match will be competitive," said Choton.
"They are ready for the matches and I hope the game will be competitive," he added.
Nepal's coach Philips has picked seven new faces in the final squad. The Australian is likely to pair Sabita Rana, the newcomer in the national squad, with Bimala Chaudhary upfront.
Deepa Rai, Saru Limbu, captain Renuka Nagarkote and Manjali Kumari Yonjan are likely to be deployed as midfielders while Amrita Jaisa, Gita Rana, Puja Rana and Hira Bhujel could line up as defenders.
"We have prepared for the last six weeks and the friendlies will be a great opportunity for the new players to cement their place in the squad," said Philipps, hinting that a few players might get a debut in the team.
The match will kick off at 17:00 under floodlights.