KATHMANDU, Nov 8: Nepal is facing Brunei in the decisive Group A match of the AFC Solidarity Cup in Kuching, Malaysia on Tuesday, which shall determine the second team to qualify for the semifinals.
Brunei has already secured a place in the semifinals after a 4-0 thumping of Timor Leste last Wednesday in the three-team group. Meanwhile, Nepal was held to a 0-0 draw by Timor Leste on Saturday.
A win or draw against Brunei at Sarawak stadium will automatically secure Nepal's place for the semifinal. Even a defeat with less than four-goal margin will also be sufficient for Nepal to make it to the last four. A win would see Nepal secure top finish in the group with four points, one point ahead of Brunei. While a draw or a defeat with less than four goal margin will put Nepal through as group runner-up.
If Nepal qualifies for the semifinals as group winner, it will face the winner between Mongolia and Laos. And if it makes it to the next round as runner-up, it will vie against Group B winner Macau.
Nepal and Brunei have played against each other only once in the past during the 2006 AFC Challenge Cup, during which Nepal was defeated 2-1.
Nepal's head coach Gyotoku Koji said that his team should be careful about the opponent as it fresh from its 4-0 victory over Timor Leste. “We need to be aware of the opponent as it is flying high after the win. But we had two days after the last match and we are hopeful of putting a strong performance,” Koji said.
Koji also opined that Brunei will have advantage of familiar playing condition and surface of Malaysia due to its proximity. He was also equally wary of the wet pitch condition that could affect the performance of his team. “As the ground where we will be playing against Brunei is very wet, it will determine our performance. But we should be ready to play in any condition and on any pitch so that we can improve our level,” added Koji.
Koji also said that his team is yet to set completely due to lack of competitive matches.
“As we have not played for long time, players are not set well in the team. The more they play, the sooner they will gel together.”
Nepal has not played a single friendly match during its two months long preparation before flying to Malaysia.
Koji also added that the weaknesses that were seen in scoring and midfield in the last match will be eliminated gradually. “Our main target will be to improve in our performance. Our focus is to play better than in the first match,” Koji wrapped up.
Influential winger Anjan Bista has picked up minor knee injury and will be assessed ahead of the match to see if he can play or not. Full back Rajin Dhimal is back to training and available for Tuesday while Ranjan Bista continues to recover from illness.
Brunei head coach Kwon Oh-Son hinted that he will not play with the full strength as several of his players sustained ankle injuries during the first match against Timor Leste in the waterlogged pitch.
“Our several player sustained ankle injuries and we also want a recovery time for them. As we are already in the semifinal, we do not want to take risks. We want a hundred percent recovery of every player. So my first priority will be protecting the players,” said the South Korean.
However, he is wary of the threat from Nepal. “Nepal is a strong team and one of the title contenders. So we look to avoid upset that happened in the other group's match between Macau and Laos.” Macau had defeated Laos 4-1 in a Group B match on Sunday.