Nepal set winning ambition against mighty JordanThe victory over the opponents that sit 76 places above in the FIFA rankings will strengthen Nepal’s bid for direct qualification into the next round of Asian qualifiers but a defeat is likely to send Nepal into the playoffs.
Nepal lock horns against the mighty Jordan with a winning ambition in their penultimate Group ‘B’ game of the joint qualifiers for World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup 2023 at the Al Kuwait Sports Club Stadium in Kuwait City on Monday.
While a victory over the West Asian country will strengthen Nepal’s bid for direct qualification into the next round of Asian qualifiers, a defeat is likely to send Nepal into the playoffs for a place in the qualifiers. The match would also be vital for Jordan who hope to advance to the next round of the World Cup qualifiers as one of the four best group runners-up, if not group winners.
Nepal are fourth with six points after victories over Chinese Taipei in both leg matches. Jordan are level on 10 points with second placed Kuwait but are behind the hosts in the standings on the basis of their goal difference.
Nepal’s chances of reaching the next round of World Cup qualifiers as group winners are already over. Nor do they have realistic dreams to finish as group runners-up given that they need to play Asian powerhouse Australia in the last group match on Friday. Nepal had lost the first leg 5-1 against Australia in Canberra in October 2019.
Despite Nepal’s ambitious target, Jordan will be a tough nut to crack for the South Asian minnows in the scorching heat of Kuwait. The two sides have met three times in the past and Jordan have won twice and drawn once. In the first match played in Amman in July 2011 during World Cup qualifiers 2014, Nepal had gone down 9-0 but in the home match played five days later Nepal held Jordan to a 1-1 draw in Kathmandu. In their last encounter played in Nepal’s away match of the ongoing qualifiers, Jordan had won 3-0 in October 2019.
Jordan hold a highly superior spot than Nepal in the FIFA rankings as they are 76 places above their South Asian opponents. While Nepal are placed at 171st position, the West Asian country are in 95th position. They could strengthen their bid to qualify for the next stage of World Cup qualifiers with victory over the South Asian side.
Nepal had edged Chinese Taipei 2-0 in their last match played on Friday while Jordan are yet to play their first match after the resumption of qualifiers that was put on hold since November 2019 owing to Covid-19 pandemic.
However, Nepal’s newly appointed coach Abdullah Almutairi is adamant on a competitive performance. "Our goal is to qualify for Asian Cup Qualifiers and we need to win against Jordan for that," said the Kuwaiti at a pre-match conference on Sunday. He is believed to have instilled confidence, the major factor lacking in Nepali players, against the big names, giving the team an attacking flair and transforming them to an offensive approach of play.
"Many have termed us underdogs holding no chance against Jordan but every match starts at 0-0 and the result depends on the performance on the field. Our aim from the start is going to win the game," Said Almutairi, who has already become a fan favorite in Nepal for his outspoken attitude.
"We have prepared for Jordan as much as we prepared for Chinese Taipei,” said Almutairi, who also partially credited the victory to the team’s in-depth research on the opponents in the last match.
Jordan coach Vital Borkelmans took a cautious approach at the pre-match conference but indirectly said that they would snatch all three points. "Everybody expects us to take three points but this is football and anything is possible. I saw Nepal playing against Chinese Taipei and Iraq and their quality and playing system has changed," said the former assistant manager of the Belgium national team.
Captain Kiran Limbu will take charge of the post for Nepal who are set to come up in 4-3-3 formation. Rohit Chand and Ananta Tamang are expected to line up in defence along with Suman Aryal and Gautam Shrestha on the starting list. Anjan Bista, who scored twice in the last two matches for Nepal, is expected to line up along with Nawayug Shrestha and Sunil Bal. Santosh Tamang, Pujan Uprekoti and Manish Dangi are likely to be recruited as midfielder.
Nepal should have hosted all four return leg matches of the group at home as they played all four initial matches at away venues due to the unavailability of an international standard stadium because Dasharath Stadium was under construction. But once the stadium was ready, the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, forcing the event to be played at the centralised venue.
The Nepal-Jordan match will kick off at 21:45 and will be telecast live on Kantipur Television.