Nepal face India in crucial fixture todayThapa will look to avenge the 2016 semi-final defeat, the only time Nepal exited from the last four in women’s SAFF.
Nepal coach Kumar Thapa says the second semi-final match of the SAFF Women’s Championship between Nepal and India on Friday will be an opportunity for him to avenge the semi-final exit of 2016 at the away venue in Siliguri, India.
Nepal had bowed out from the semi-final of the sub-continental tournament for the first and only one occasion in Siliguri losing 3-1 to India. Other than that, Nepal have entered the final of all previous four editions of the biennial tournament but never won the trophy finishing runners up behind India on all occasions.
Thapa was the coach of the Nepal team in the fourth edition when Nepal met India in the semi-final. He is again the coach in the current event being played at Nepal’s home ground at Dasharath Stadium.
“We had lost the semi-final at their home ground and now it is being played at our backyard. I got a second chance now and we don’t want to lose the game at our home turf,” said the former Nepal international midfielder.
“India are a tough opponent with a strong history. We have not taken them lightly. We will try to minimise our mistakes,” said Thapa, whose side made it to the semi-final as group winners with a comfortable 4-0 win against Bhutan and 6-0 against Sri Lanka.
Thapa also lamented that his side's defence lineup and goalkeeper were never tested in their first two matches.
India defeated Pakistan 3-0, Maldives 9-0 before losing 3-0 to Bangladesh and progressed into knockout as group runners up.
Though India have won all five past encounters against Nepal in the SAFF Championship, coach Suren Kumar Chhetri termed Nepal as tough opponents. “Nepal are a good team and we learnt a good lesson today,” Chhetri had said after his side’s defeat against Bangladesh.
Clarifying that his side would not underestimate the home team, he said: “Nepal is a football hub and it is always tough to play against them on their home soil. Lots of people come to support the home team.”
Among 14 matches played between the two sides, Nepal have won just one, during the Women’s Gold Cup in Bhuwaneshwar in February 2019, drawn two and have lost 11 matches.
Nepal’s star forward Sabitra Bhandari, ruled out of the team’s last match against Sri Lanka due to dengue, however, is in doubt for the game. “She is under observation but she has not had a fever since yesterday [Wednesday] evening. Hopefully she will be ready to play tomorrow,” said Thapa, adding that the doctor attending her will have final say about the talismanic forward. According to team sources, she had a light training session on Thursday.
Bhandari is the all-time highest scorer for Nepal with 40 goals under her belt and was excluded from the team’s win over Sri Lanka. She had scored twice in the 4-0 win over Bhutan.
Goalkeeper Anjila Tumbapo Subba will take charge of the post while Hira Kumari Bhujel, Gita Rana, Amrita Jaisi and Punam Jargha Magar are likely to be deployed as defenders. Bhandari and Amisha Karki are likely to be assigned the attacking role. But should Bhandari be benched, Rashmi Kumari Ghising is likely to take her place. Saru Limbu, Dipa Shahi and Anita KC and Anita Basnet will be deployed as midfielders.
Bangladesh, the winner of Group ‘A’, will vie against Bhutan, Group ‘B’ runners up in the day’s early kickoff.