Nepal face daunting task in title defenceNepal face Herculean task of defending the Bangabandu Gold Cup football tournament title thanks to insufficient preparations ahead of the October 1-12 in Bangladesh.
Nepal face Herculean task of defending the Bangabandu Gold Cup football tournament title thanks to insufficient preparations ahead of the October 1-12 in Bangladesh.
Nepal, who leave for Bangladesh on September 30, started preparations for the six-team tournament only on Tuesday. Nepal only confirmed their participation on Sunday after the 2016 champions received half the prize money. Despite the shortcoming, Nepal coach Bal Gopal Maharjan insists that his players are in good share due to the regular training for the SAFF Championship, Asian Games and the impending top-tier league which kicks off on September 29.
“Our players were involved in SAFF Championship and Asian Games recently. To add to our advantage the players were also preparing for the Martyrs Memorial League,” said Maharjan, who has coach Kiran Shrestha as his deputy and Nabin Maharjan as goalkeeping coach for the tournament.
Nepal crashed out from the semi-finals of the SAFF Championship with a 3-0 loss to Maldives in the September 4-15 event in Dhaka. Dubbed as the favourites to win the title after emerging Group ‘B’ winners, Nepal’s dream of winning the first SAFF title fizzled out with the defeat for the fifth time.
The first day of the training was attended only by nine players—Nirajan Khadka, Sunil Bal, Alan Neupane, Bimal Gharti Magar, Nawayug Shrestha, Aditya Chaudhary, Dinesh Rajbanshi, Tej Tamang and Ananta Tamang. There are only two changes in the team from the SAFF squad as first choice goalie Kiran Shrestha has been replaced by Bishal Shrestha and versatile midfielder-cum-defender Rohit Chand was replaced by Tej Tamang. Chemjong, who plies his trade in Maldives, and Chand, who plays in Indonesia, were ignored due to their club commitments.
Nepal are pitted with mighty opponents Palestine who are ranked 100th in FIFA rankings and the 120th-ranked Tajikistan in Group ‘A’. Nepal are 160th in world rankings position. The Group ‘B’ consists of hosts Bangladesh, Philippines and Loas. Maharjan believes that his team faces tough challenge in comparison to last edition.
Nirajan Khadka said that they all under training with their respective clubs and move forward with strong mentality despite short preparation time. “We have learned a lot from SAFF failure. The semi-final defeat in SAFF Championship was harsh but it only made us stronger,” said Khadka. “Our opponents are tough than SAFF and we have to strengthen our defence. We look forward to positive results,” said Khadka.
“We have a modest target of making it to semi-finals,” said Maharjan adding that he has alternatives for Chemjong and Chand. “Both of them are senior and capable players but we should look for alternative as well.” Winger Sunil Bal who sparkled in the SAFF Championship said he was eagerly awaiting the kickoff.
Goalkeeper: Bishal Shrestha, Bikesh Kuthu, Alan Neupane
Defender: Dinesh Rajbansi, Devendra Tamang, Biraj Maharjan (C), Ananta Tamang, Aditya Chaudhary, Tej Tamang, Suman Aryal
Midfielder: Hemant Thapa Magar, Heman Gurung, Bishal Rai, Sunil Bal, Sujal Shrestha, Nirajan Khadka
Forwards: Bharat Khawas, Bimal Gharti Magar, Nawayug Shrestha, Anjan Bista