“Malaysia U-23 shock Nepal” – The Himalayan times
“Malaysia Under-23s down Nepal” – ESPNstar.com
“Malaysia batter Nepal” – ekantipur.com
Well these were some of the headlines than ran across some of the e-newspapers that I went through the other day. It must break the hearts of most Nepali fans to go through these headings time and again. Though it’s a bitter pill to swallow, it has somewhat become normal for us to expect such news on a regular basis. But there are still many positive points and important lessons to be learnt from this game against the Malaysians.
First and the most important of them all, the FIFA ranking does not really give the true account of the strength of a particular team (proven by our defeat against two teams which ranked lower than us before the games and they both beat us convincingly.). It only helps give a false sense of pride and superiority to the fans (and to the press in our case) before it is put to the test and proven otherwise in a very tragic and ruthless manner by our opponents. We are well ahead among the South Asian teams in terms of ranking but if I am to be honest, we still got a lot to do as a team if we are even to beat the teams like India, Bangladesh, Maldives or Pakistan in the SAFF championship (they are way better than us technically and as a team).
Playing defensive strategies may well reduce the goals scored against us and save us from embarrassment but it will hardly win us any games. Earlier, in my previous post, I had already mentioned my disappointment at the choice of the 5-3-2 strategy in the game against Malaysia. As I had predicted, we sure did manage to reduce the number of goals but it was still humiliating to lose by a two goal margin despite fielding a defensive team. Most of us were spared from watching this game but the news reports claiming not even a single convincing attacking move by the Nepalese team clearly indicates just how boring and one sided the match must have been. I will accept going down by a huge margin while trying to win the game while fielding an attacking team rather than losing by a small margin while trying to just reduce the number of goals by fielding a defensive team.
It is said that a game of football is won in the midfield. If the national team haven’t already figured it out then it’s high time that they did. Midfield is where most of a football game is played; it is from here that the plans of attacking an opposition are orchestrated and when required, it acts as the first line of defence against the attack of the opposing team. If the midfield is weak, then it will automatically weaken the defence and the offence.
Nepal had a poor performance at the midfield during the game against Philippines and we should have made sure that we amended that issue; instead Nepal chose to field a three man midfield against the Malaysians which further weakened our hold at the centre and turned the whole game into a one team show.
The strikers did not have anything to do the entire match except some odd moves here and there. How worse could it get when not a single shot on target was recorded by the Nepalese team throughout the length of the match. But could we seriously expect anything from our strikers when the whole playing strategy was laid out defensively? Well one could definitely not expect them to scoop out the ball from our own half and dodge past a wall of Malaysian defenders and score now, could you? The strikers are helpless without a strong midfield; we have to remember that.
All is not lost though. We have signs of positive things to come and if we analyze the second game properly, then we have definitely found a reliable goal keeper in the form of Kiran Chemjong. His performance was exemplary in the second game; given that he came under a barrage of Malaysian attack. If it were not for him, we would be reading a different score line against the favour of Nepalese team. A few more games, more exposure, and I can only see him improving and growing in confidence.
The happiest of the news for all the Nepalese fans is the timely return to form of Rohit Chand. If Kiran as a goalie was exemplary then he has the outstanding Rohit Chand to thank for foiling most of the Malaysian attacks almost on his own. He showed in the game how good he is with the sliding tackles and timely interventions to lay waste an otherwise perfect attack. He deserves all the credits for his hard work at the back. This kid is a star in the making and if given much exposure, he will be serving the country for a long time to come.
Apart from that, the defence line has also shown the signs of improvement as compared to the game against the Azkals. They were definitely better organized and coordinated than before but lapse of concentration and continued pressure from the Malaysian cost them two goals in the wee hours of the game. But in any case, they did a credible job in holding the Malaysians till the 81st minute of the game to no goals. Still room for improvements though; there is still a lot to be done if our defence is to become a solid wall against any attack. Coordination and communication is always the key if you want to improve.
Finally, the road ahead seems tougher with Cambodia and Thailand still to come. But as I have already said, I would prefer an attacking, victory oriented team over a defensive and preventive team on any given day. Regardless of all the things I’ve said, here’s wishing the National team the very best of all the things to come in their tour. Learning from the mistakes committed and amending them promptly (and also a lot of positive thinking and approach) is the key to success. I am confident we will definitely achieve something good by the end of it all. Do remember, our final target is the SAFF championship in Delhi.
Gurumapa, a guest writer for GoalNepal.com