20-man squad for SAFF announced; Nirajan Khadka returns after 5 years

Published On: August 28, 2018 08:47 AM NPT By: ABHISHEK SUBEDI

KATHMANDU, Aug 28: The interim head coach of Nepal national football team Bal Gopal Maharjan on Monday announced a 20-man squad for the upcoming SAFF Championship slated from September 4 through 15, shockingly leaving out some first team players.  Maharjan announced the squad leaving out forward George Prince Karki, defender Kamal Shrestha, midfielder Tej Tamang and injured right back Rabin Shrestha. 

Maharjan announced three goalkeepers, seven defenders, six midfielders and four forwards to represent the team in the championship that will be played in Bangladesh. Among them, Nirajan Khadka made his return in the national team after five years. 

Maharjan also selected Nepal Police Club’s Dinesh Rajbanshi, who will be deployed as the right back for the team. Defender Suman Aryal is also taken in. 

An emergency meeting of the working committee of All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) had announced Maharjan as the interim head coach of Nepal on Wednesday, replacing Japanese Gyotoku Koji. 

Nepal won its first major title in 23 years after clinching the 2016 Bangabandhu Cup under Maharjan, and lifted the 2016 AFC Solidarity Cup under Koji that was Nepal’s first AFC title. Also, Nepal won the gold medal in football at the 2016 South Asian Games defeating arch rival India 2-1 in the final. 

Maharjan said the team’s goal in the championship was to win the title, and that it has proved its worth by winning trophies in international platforms. 

“We have won a few trophies in the last two years. We are aiming to win the SAFF Championship this time. The trophies our team has won in the past years is a testimony that we are capable to win the SAFF now,” Maharjan said. “We are targeting to reach the semifinals by topping the group and we are confident about doing so.”

Nepal had played football at the 18th Asian Games held in Jakarta and Palembang in Indonesia, where it lost all three group games, against Japan, Vietnam and Pakistan. 

Nepal had fielded most of the age group players in the squad with three senior players. But with the latest revamp, much can be expected from the team, according to Maharjan. 

“We had targeted to not let Japan and Vietnam take charge of the possession, and defend properly against those sides,” Maharjan said, “But now the team to play in the SAFF Championship is different, and we are confident in doing well in Bangladesh. “This time we will play attacking football, which is the reason I am confident in doing well.’’ 

The team that played in the Asian Games had been practicing for the games for three months before leaving for Jakarta, aiming to also prepare for the subsequent SAFF Championship.

Maharjan claimed that there has been no issue of match fitness and the players are ready for the challenge. He seemed confident of the players who played two matches in Thailand and three in Indonesia. 

“We got training for three months prior to the Asian Games. We played three matches in the Asian Games and I don’t think there is any need to play any more matches ahead of the championship,” Maharjan said. “Despite the revamp, the team is fit to play in the tournament and there will be no issue of match fitness.” 

He also added that they have used the GPS tracker for the first time in Nepal, which is used to calculate the distance traveled by the players, top speed, sprint distance and the number of sprints. It is also used for tactical analysis of each player. 

“We are aware about all the issues and we have dealt with that already. There are trainers to keep an eye on match fitness of the players. The only problem might be the humidity and temperature in Bangladesh,” he further added. 

Right back Shrestha, who came back from his knee injury recently, had to be left out from the national side preventing him from getting injured again. The Nepali team has always benefited from Shrestha’s overlap runs from wings and pin-point crosses in the box for forwards. Shrestha’s tactical brilliance and the partnership with the wingers on the wide to create clear cut chances in the final third is very important for the team, and he will be a big miss. 

“We have chosen the players who fit in the attacking system we will play. We analyzed from their performances in the Asian Games and selected the players who are better,” Maharjan said. “Rabin is still injured, so we left him out. But, the other players who weren’t chosen are weaker than the ones we chose.” 

“We will concentrate on attack and the midfield is very vital for that. We have chosen midfielders who can play swift and tactical football. We will also make tactics as per the style our opponent plays,” Maharjan explained. “Passing and attacking football is our style, and we will focus to keep possession with us.” 

20-man squad 
: Kiran Kumar Limbu, Bikesh Kuthu, Alan Neupane.
Defenders: Dinesh Rajbanshi, Devendra Tamang, Biraj Maharjan (captain), Ananta Tamang, Aditya Chaudhary, Rohit Chand, Suman Aryal.
Midfielders: Hemant Thapa Magar, Heman Gurung, Bishal Rai, Sunil Bal, Sujal Shrestha, Nirajan Khadka.
Forwards: Bharat Khawas, Bimal Gharti Magar, Nawayug Shrestha, Anjan Bista

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