Nepal take on Sri Lanka todayA victory over Sri Lanka will strengthen Nepal’s bid for final in the SAFF Championship.
Elated after a 1-0 win over hosts Maldives in the opening match on Friday, Nepal will vie against Sri Lanka in the second match day of the SAFF Championship at the National Football Stadium in Male on Monday. Bangladesh will play against India in the early fixture.
A victory over the Sri Lankan side will strengthen Nepal's bid for first final in the sub continental tournament contested by five South Asian teams. The top two finishers at the end of the round robin league will secure a place in the final.
Goalkeeper and captain Kiran Kumar Limbu believes that Sri Lanka encounter was the most important game in the history of Nepali football. "It is a very important game for us and we would give our cent percent for three points," said Limbu.
Nepal's Kuwaiti coach Abdullah Almutairi, however, said that Sri Lanka would be tougher opponents for his side than the Maldives. "We want to forget our victory over Maldives and play against Sri Lanka as our first opponents. It will be more difficult for us to play Sri Lanka," said Abdullah.
In the past, Nepal and Sri Lanka have played five matches in the SAFF Championship and Nepal have won only one encounter among them while Sri Lanka have won three. One match has finished in a draw.
The last encounter between the two sides took place in 2015 SAFF in Kerala, India, which saw Nepal concede an injury time goal and crash out from the group stage.
Meanwhile, the coaches of all four teams seemed to have started 'mind game' ahead of match day 2. All four teams playing on Monday are led by foreign coaches except hosts Maldives.
India's Croatian coach Igor Stimac is the high profile coach among them. He was a member of the Croatian squad that won third place in the 1998 World Cup and also briefly led their national team. He was assigned as Indian national coach in 2019.
Stimac has come up with the first choice player for SAFF and believes that India were the favourites to win the championship. He, however, did not speak much on the eve of his team's clash against Bangladesh. Instead, he chose to speak against the wrong referee decision during the first match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka that the former won 1-0.
Bangladesh had scored through penalty and Sri Lankan central defender Duckson Puslas was slapped a red card for handling the ball. However, Indian coach Stimac blamed it as a wrong decision by the referee and said the decision changed the game result.
Bangladesh's Spanish coach Oscar Brujan defended the referee's decision. He was the former assistant coach of La Liga side Real Mallorca. Burjan also believes that Bangladesh was the strongest team in the South Asia region. He was of the opinion that Bangladesh captain and midfielder Jamal Bhuyan was equally competent as Indian star player and captain Sunil Chhetri.
Sri Lankan head coach Amir Alagic, the former assistant coach of Germany Bundesliga side Werder Bremen, also held a similar view as that of his India counterpart on the referee decision in the Bangladesh-Sri Lanka clash. He said that Sri Lanka had the potential to be one of the best teams of the South Asian region.