After two successive defeats, the U23 national football team of Nepal is on the cusp of exiting from the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.
Having lost the opener to Japan, Nepal went down to Vietnam 0-2 without a fight. Yet another disappointment, sadly.
There is no excuse for the latest setback, which was no surprise. Let us concede to the fact that Nepal lost to a better opponents that played a more positive,attacking and organized brand of football.
Prior to the clash, the only question that remained, whether Nepal would stick to the same defensive game plan as they did in the opener against Japan.
They did eventually, giving liberty to the opponent to dominate and control exchanges for the most part of the game.
Nepal performed poorly in the first half. It was a tale of erratic passes,lack of coordination, defensive lapses, slack offensive and midfield play, giving away the ball far too easily, inability to make forays into opposition territory.
They performed slightly better in the last 35 minutes of the game, taking a few shots at the goal and improving ball possession percentage. However, they never came up close to score goals.
The offense lacked sharpness, punch, pace, penetration and support from midfielders to put real pressure on the opponent.
Surging Vietnam lived up to their billing and left no stones unturned in their search for glory.They outperformed the opposition in every department of the game.
With two wins they are through to the knockout stage and play Japan in their last match to decide the group winner.
Nepal has an outside chance to qualify to the knockouts as one of the best four third place finishers.
There are six teams in the race, hoping to sneak through to the knockout stage based on points, goal difference, goals scored, fair play points and drawing of lots.
Looking at the ranking of third placed teams, currently, Nepal stands at the bottom with 0 point. They have a long shot provided they beat Pakistan by a healthy goal margin.
Team Nepal’s focus must be on beating Pakistan. A clean and sharp performance, coupled with goal scoring flurry can only bolster their chances.
A draw will not help Nepal’s cause. Pakistan seems to be the weakest team in the group in terms of performance and results.
Undoubtedly, Nepal stands a pretty good chance against Pakistan. That said, nothing can be taken for granted until the final whistle.
Also it would be a blunder to underestimate the opposition.Who knows,the Pakistanis can turn things around and spring a surprise.They are a physical side with plenty of speed.
Taking into account Nepal’s shallow performance so far, there are plenty of grey areas that needs to be taken care of.
If Nepal wishes to take a victory lap,they must dish out a clinical performance, play to their potential and come out the gate firing on all cylinders.
Given Pakistan's weaknesses, Nepal must resort to an attacking formation and play aggressively throughput.
More important, every member of the unit must step up and put in extra effort. There is absolutely no room for complacency and mediocrity.
The attack line and midfielders performance will be key to Nepal’s success. So far,they have looked unimpressive and unconvincing.
This is one big opportunity for Nepal to end the goal drought and record a win.
A victory for Nepal can be the perfect result to wrap up the competition on a high note.
Nepal might be the favorites to win, but I still feel the game is up for grabs.
Thapa is a senior journalist based in USA
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