KATHMANDU, June 5: Nepal’s national football team head coach Gyotoku Koji has said that the friendly against arch rival India on Tuesday will be difficult. Nepal and India who are currently in the preparations of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers will meet in Andheri Sports Complex of Mumbai.
“This match is important for us as we have taken it as preparation for our upcoming AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers match and it will be a difficult clash,” said head coach Koji.
Both Nepal and India are facing their Asian Cup Qualifiers’ opponents Yemen and Kyrgyzstan in the matches scheduled for June 13. Nepal had terrible start to the qualifiers of the continental competition losing to the Philippines 4-1 on March 28 while India made wining start defeating Myanmar 1-0.
Koji also said that match against India will be beneficial for Nepal given the improvement host team has made lately. “In the last two or three years India has improved its level massively so it is useful for us to play against such a strong team,” said the Japanese coach. “Friendly matches are very important for the team but we are not being able to get such opportunities. So this match is very beneficial for us,” India has made breakthrough to top 100 in the FIFA ranking while Nepal is in 169th place.
Nepal has poor record against India given its two wins out of the 18 matches against fellow South Asian nation. India has won 12 matches while other four matches had ended in a draw. The last time the two sides met each other, India had beaten Nepal 4-1 in a South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship fixture in December 2015.
However, Koji remained hopeful of his team playing strongly against India this time.
“India is quite strong both physically and technically but we will give a strong fight. We have been preparing since one month for this match, so we are in good shape. We need win and we will go for it,” added Koji.
Nepali coach had called up more than 40 players to the training camp before finalizing it to 20 on Friday.
Similarly Biraj Maharjan, who is captaining the side, said that young Nepali side will learn from the friendly against India. “As we have young squad, players will get to learn from a match against a strong opponent like India,” said skipper Maharjan.
Nepali team is missing two key players including fullback Rabin Shrestha and Bikram Lama. Fullback Rabin is out due to knee injury while Bikram is suspended due to red card he faced in the match against the Philippines, hence he is another absentee. Rajin Dhimal was looked as Rabin’s natural replacement but injury has ruled him out for several weeks so new face Bimal Basnet has come to feel the void. Hemanta Thapa Magar, former U16 captain, has replaced Bikram Lama in the squad while Nawayug Shrestha is back to the side after overcoming the injury issue.
Meanwhile, Indian head coach Stephen Constantine has confirmed that his talisman Sunil Chhetri won’t be able to play against Nepal. In the absence of Chhetri, goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will captain his team.