Nepal out to fancy a chanceNepal U-23 head coach Raju Kaji Shakya said that his side will fancy a chance against mighty opponents in the AFC U-23 Championship Group ‘D’ Qualifiers set to begin on Saturday at the United Arab Emirates.
Nepal U-23 head coach Raju Kaji Shakya said that his side will fancy a chance against mighty opponents in the AFC U-23 Championship Group ‘D’ Qualifiers set to begin on Saturday at the United Arab Emirates.
Pitted against the UAE, Uzbekistan and Lebanon, Nepal will begin their campaign with a match against the hosts on July 15. They next play defending champions Uzbekistan two days later and wrap up the league stage with the match against Lebanon on July 19. The Qualifiers will send 10 group winners and five best runners-up to the finals to be held in China next year.
“Though we have a tough group, any outcome is possible and we will obviously go for a chance against the big teams,” said Shakya who had guided the men’s U-23 team to South Asian Games football gold in February, 2016. “We have a strong team work and Nepal have taken big stride in their scoring ability off late.”
Shakya’s side earned a 1-0 win over Bangladesh in a friendly at home on Tuesday to get a boost for the tournament. Shakya had chosen a different (4-5-1) formation that exposed a gap between the midfield and defenders. But the coach is adamant to stick with the same formation when they meet the Emiratis in the opener on Saturday.
“We were playing with that (4-5-1) formation for first time and the gap between defenders and midfielders looked obvious. “We have two days of training in the UAE and if we improve on that formation, it can yield us results,” added Shakya on the eve of their departure to the UAE. “If the plan does not work, we can switch our plans.”
The major area of concern for Shakya was the lack of exposure for his boys. “Though the friendly win against Bangladesh have boosted our morale, we could have known our level had we got chances to play friendlies with stronger opponents. There is huge gulf between the teams we are meeting in Qualifiers and that of Bangladesh,” the coach added.
The other areas of concern for Shakya will be the humid conditions in the UAE and playing in the natural turf as Nepal’s practice has been dominantly dependant on the astro turf at the Anfa Complex. “Obviously, there will be a difference playing in natural turf and the artificial one. We have to get used to playing in natural turf in the two-day training available for us. Additionally, there are 13 members in the team who lack international experience and this could be a problem for us. Let’s see how the rookies fare.”
Nepal skipper Bimal Gharti Magar, who limped midway in the first half against Bangladesh after scoring the decisive goal in 1-0 win, claimed he was fit to play. “It is a niggling shoulder injury but I am fine and ready for the UAE clash,” he said adding that the win over Bangladesh have made them confident to play as a team. “Though the opponents are stronger than us, we can even beat them on a particular day. The biggest asset for us would be the team spirit for us because we have been playing together for a long time,” he summed up.