Nepal’s Sabitra Bhandari (L) in action against players of Sri Lanka during their last group stage (Group A) match of the Women’s SAFF Championship at Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri, West Bengal, India on Friday. Photo Courtesy: ANFA
KATHMANDU, Dec 31: Nepal has advanced to the semifinal of the ongoing SAFF Women's Championship as the group champion on Friday. Nepali pulled a 1-0 win over Sri Lanka in its last group match held at Kanchenjunga stadium, Siliguri, India to book the place in the last four with cent percent winning record.
Nepal which had beaten Bhutan and the Maldives with big margin of 8-0 and 9-0 respectively in the last two matches of the group failed to replicate the same goal-scoring form against Sri Lanka. The three times runner up of the championship had to rely on an own goal scored by Sri Lanka's R Gunawardane in the 87th minute.
Nepal's head coach Kumar Thapa expressed his dissatisfaction toward the performance of his players praising Sri Lanka's game plan. “I think my players took today's game comfortably as we were already close to semifinal due to first two wins,” said head coach Thapa, "My players were out of focus today and they took today's opponent lightly.''
Head Coach Thapa praised Sri Lanka's game plan stating they came with plan to stop Nepal's key players. “They had identified our players who could pose more threat to them and marked them well in order to prevent us from scoring goals,” said Thapa.
Nepal made one change in the playing XI with Anjana Rana Magar coming in goalkeeping position for Namita Kumari Dali.
Nepal will face the runner-up of Group B in the last four clash on January 2 at Kanchenjunga stadium. However Nepal's semifinal opponent will be fixed on Saturday after the match between current Group B leader Bangladesh and India which will decide the group winner and runner-up.
Bangladesh which has three points, leads second placed India on goal difference.
Head Coach Thapa stated that both India and Bangladesh are performing strongly in the competition so either of them will be tough to face in the semifinal. “They both will be tough so we are prepared to face either of them in order to book place in the final,” said head coach Thapa.
Group B consists only three teams including three time champion India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Afghanistan has already crashed out from the tournament after facing two defeats from two matches. Both India and Bangladesh have registered wins over Afghanistan with goal margin of 5-1 and 6-0 respectively.
Sri Lanka's head coach M Ratnam said that his game plan of playing defensive game marking Nepal's key players worked well. “Nepal is a very good team. To stop Nepali attackers from scoring goals we had planned to mark them well which helped us out,” said Ratnam.
Meanwhile in Group A, second placed Sri Lanka has three points from three matches and is ahead of the Maldives on goal difference. However, the Maldives has played two matches and a draw against Bhutan on Saturday will send it to semifinal as group runner-up.