Official int'l football title for Nepal after 23 yrs

Published On: November 16, 2016 03:56 AM NPT By: Prabin Bikram Katwal  | @prabinLFC

KATHMANDU, Nov 15: Nepal has lifted its first official international title after two decades defeating Macau 1-0 in the final of the AFC Solidarity Cup in Kuching, Malaysia on Tuesday.  

Sujal Shrestha's 29th minute header became sufficient for Nepal to be crowned the champion of the Asian level football tournament for the first time in its history. Sujal headed Bharat Khawas' cross from the right wing to put the ball into the net as Nepal maintained its unbeaten run to eight matches. 

It was the first official international title of Nepal after 23 years since winning gold in men's football during the 1993 South Asian Game (SAG). It also turned out to be the third title of the year for Nepal after winning Bangabandhu Gold Cup in Dhaka and South Asian Games (SAG) men's football gold in India. However, Bangabandhu wasn't an official tournament while SAG featured U-23 teams. 

Nepal's head coach Gyotoku Koji, who guided Nepal to the title haul in his very first tournament, expressed his happiness over winning the title. He, however, wasn't fully satisfied with the performance of his players. “I am very happy to be the champion. But still, I am not happy with their performance,” said the Japanese national, who was appointed the head coach of Nepal since March. 

Nepal dominated the whole match played at the water-logged pitch of the Sarawak Stadium in Kuching. Despite unfavorable pitch condition for the passing game, Nepal still managed to hold the ball possession. However, Nepal failed to extend its goal margin after failing to convert numerous scoring chances throughout the game.  

“Defense wise we played very well as the match was too physical. But we maintained clean sheet,” Koji said. 

Koji also stressed on improvement in finishing and hard work. “We have to work hard in the future. We created many chances but had to settle for 1-0 score,” Koji concluded. 

Biraj Maharjan, who captained the team to three titles in a row, was overwhelmed with the win. “I am really happy to clinch three titles in a row. This is very important for us and for Nepal and football fans back in home,” said Maharjan, adding that he was fortunate to lead the team that won titles on three occasions . 

En route to the final, Nepal played a 0-0 draw against Timor Leste and eased past second-string Brunei 3-0 to top Group A and qualify for the semifinals. In the semifinal match, Nepal overcame Laos 3-0 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in regulation and added time.  


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