Six new faces in Nepal squadNew coach Annese will take charge of the Nepal national football team for the first time against Laos in the opener of the Three Nations Cup at the Dasharath Stadium today.
Nepal on Tuesday announced its squad for the Prime Minister Three Nations Cup Football Tournament, only a day ahead of the tournament. The squad includes six new faces.
Midfielder Sujal Shrestha, also the former caretaker captain, and forward Bimal Gharti Magar are among the notable names missing from the Nepali squad that is set to play against Bhutan and Laos at the Dasharath Stadium.
Goalkeeper Abhishek Baral, defenders Sanish Shrestha and Padam Bhattarai, midfielder Mani Kumar Lama, and forward duo Dipak Singh Thakuri and Sumit Shrestha have been called to the national squad for the first time by the newly-appointed coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese.
The tournament will be the first assignment for the Italian coach who was named for the hot seat on March 1 for a one-year period. Nepal only had a three-day training prior to the tournament due to the ongoing Martyrs Memorial ‘A’ Division League that was played until Saturday and will resume on April 3.
The tournament will be played in a single round robin format and the top two teams will play in the final. Hosts Nepal will play against Laos in the opening match on Wednesday, while Bhutan and Laos will compete in the second match on Saturday.
Nepal versus Bhutan match will take place on March 28 and the final is scheduled for March 31. The final will kick off at 17:30 hours and other games will begin at 18:00 hours.
Nepal and Bhutan have played 12 times in the past and Nepal has won all matches against them, scoring 38 and conceding five goals. Nepal and Laos have played twice against each other in 2016. In the first match played as an international friendly in Vientiane, the capital city of Laos in May 2016, the game ended in 1-1 draw. In the other match played at AFC Solidarity Cup in Kuching, Malaysia, Nepal edged past them 3-0 on penalties following a 2-2 draw.
Team Nepal are without the 12 players who were the members of the national team in the last two matches that played international friendlies against Bangladesh and Pakistan in September and November last year. While seven among them have left for Australia looking for a better future, five have been left out.
According to Annese, the Nepal team coach, he is focussing more on the fitness of the players rather than their names. Forward Anjan Bista, rested on Friday in the Church Boys United (CBU) match against Sankata Club in the ‘A’ Division domestic league owing to injury, was named in the squad.
“We selected players who were fit and could finish the 90 minutes of play,” said Annese. “Though Anjan did not play last match for CBU, he is totally fit and trained each day with us.”
“There will be too many new players below 23 years of age. I hope that I have selected the right players. In the last 18 days that I have been here, I tried to watch all the players in the ongoing ‘A’ Division League. I did not care much about names. Many players were not picked due to injury and I preferred to choose those players who played 90 minutes in the last game,” added the Italian coach.
According to Annese, he selected the players who could fit his “pressing style of play.” “I saw a lot of stuff and selected players on the basis of multiple qualities like their attitude in defeat, pressing style, attacking and defensive face and air jump.” He said the tournament is an opportunity for his side to perform well and improve.
Captain Kiran Kumar Limbu said that it was challenging to play the tournament on the back of a three-day training and they need to accept it. “We need to believe in each other and the coach also has had a short preparation time. We need to understand the strategy of the new coach and try our best,” said Limbu.
Laos coach Michael Weiss said that they arrived in Nepal after a short preparation due to the ongoing domestic league in the country. “We have a young squad with most of the Under-22 players. We are building a team for the future and take this tournament as a chance to prepare for the upcoming South East Asian Games in Cambodia,” said Weiss.
He added that they have to cope against the home advantage of Nepal and high altitude. “We expect the home side to be aggressive and technical, but we will try to be even and give results,” said the German coach.
Bhutan will be playing an international match for the first time in three years. The team arrived in Nepal on the back of a two-month training. Bhutan coach Pema Dorji said he came to Nepal with a similar target as other teams – to win. “We have young players and new faces in the team. I think they will give their cent percent and fight to win,” said Dorji.
Goalkeepers: Kiran Kumar Limbu (Punjab FC), Deep Karki (MMC), Abhishek Baral (Satdobato Youth Club)
Defenders: Sanish Shrestha (APF), Bikash Khawas (Army), Ananta Tamang (CBU), Padam Bhattarai (Khumaltar), Aditya Chaudhary (Jawalakhel), Nishant Khadka (Sankata)
Midfielders: Pujan Uperkoti (Machhindra), Arik Bista (CBU), Nabin Lama (APF), Rohit Chand (Persik Kediri), Kamal Thapa (MMC), Mani Kumar Lama (APF), Bharat Khawas (Army)
Forwards: Ayush Ghalan (Sankata), Nawayug Shrestha (Army), Dipak Singh Thakuri (Satdobato), Anjan Bista (CBU), Aashish Chaudhary (CBU), Sumit Shrestha (MMC), Manish Dangi (Sankata)