The men’s national football team of Nepal made an early exit from the 14th edition of the South Asian Federation Football Championship, following two successive defeats in Bengaluru,India.
As a result, Nepal's hopes for South Asian Federation Football Championship (SAFFC) glory went up in flames, agonizingly prolonging the wait. Yet another attempt goes in vain.We have been waiting for far too long. With every passing year, the wait is getting longer and frustrating. The presence of formidable teams from outside the South Asian region does make the competition more competitive and at the same time more challenging for the regional outfits,which is a good thing.
South Asian countries must prioritize the championship and embrace the challenge for performance excellence. The objective must be to prove themselves and make an impression in the competition,and for that they will need adequate,proper and timely preparation to face the challenge. It is the duty and responsibility of every football association to prepare their team in the best possible manner regardless.
Otherwise, competing for the sake of competition is pointless and irrelevant. If the team is underprepared for the competitive game environment,it is bound to backfire. It translates into more frustration and disappointment for players and fans alike. It will show players and coaches in a bad light as well. In the crunch game against the home team India, Nepal needed an outright victory to stay in the competition. After a goalless first half which was evenly contested,Nepal still had a chance to upset the applecart in the final 45 minutes of play.
However, they could not propel their performance and keep the momentum going.They lacked the game to counter the opposition’s aggression and well coordinated moves. They created a few scoring chances but never came close to finding the net.The offense was well short of firepower, penetration and finishing touch to put the opposition under pressure. Unlike the first 45 minutes of play,Nepal performed well below their best in the second half. They struggled with passes ,failed to keep possession of the ball,and were guilty of unforced errors for the most part. There was no effective coordination between forwards and midfielders.
The defense resorted to frantic defending as they came under constant pressure and ultimately caved in. The defending champions India looked a pale shadow of their former till the 60th minute of the game. Their performance can be best described as ragged,error-riddled and uninspiring. They were fortunate that the opponent failed to capitalize on their mediocrity and sluggish play. After drawing first blood to take the lead,they turned their performance around to take control of the game.They added another goal to seal victory and a place in the last four.They next play Kuwait to decide the group winners. Nepal takes on Pakistan for the wooden spoon battle in their final group match. Foremost, they must acknowledge and overcome the two defeats and get back into a groove. Bouncing back from setbacks and thriving is vitally important.
They need to regroup, regain confidence and play with renewed zeal, vigor, determination and with a positive mindset. It is imperative for Head Coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese boys to cap off the tournament on a winning note. Pakistan cannot be underestimated or taken lightly.They are physically a tough outfit and do have the depth to spring surprises. Nepal must churn out a purposeful and meaningful performance collectively and individually.Team cohesiveness has to improve in every department of the game.
The offense has to show urgency, sharpness, and consistency in their performance,coupled with clinical finishing when it comes to converting scoring chances. Furthermore,they must effectively work in tandem with midfielders.The midfielders were in a state of dormancy in the first two matches.Their contribution was insignificant making it difficult for the offense to launch forays into opposition goal. The defense has to shake off lethargy and engage in sound and confident tactical defending.They have to be defiant and dogged throughout.
They cannot afford casual defending against the taller opposition who stand a better chance to dominate aerial duels.In skipper Kiran Limbu there is little to worry about goalkeeping . Team Nepal must rise to the occasion and put together a complete performance to prevail over Pakistan to avoid another disappointment.
By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax,VA,USA
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