KATHMANDU, March 24: Nepali national football team, spirited from the successes in the recent past, is all set to take on Philippines in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers on Tuesday. Nepali team will fly off to Philippines late Saturday evening via Hong Kong.
Nepali national team, which won Solidarity Cup in Malaysia in November and Bangabandhu Gold Cup in Bangladesh in January last year, is spirited to upset Philippines in latter's home ground, Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
"The title victory in the Solidarity Cup has provided a morale boost-up to the team. However, the level of competition is much higher than that in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers. The Philippines are strong team," said Coach Raju Kaji Shakya.
Nepal, which is under the leadership of Captain Biraj Maharjan and Head Coach Gyotoku Koji, has understood the fact.
"We have analyzed Philippines' games and picked players as well as trained them accordingly," claimed Shakya.
"We have young defenders but we have prepared them well to overcome the physically tougher strikers of the Philippines," he added.
Nepal and the Philippines have played four matches so far and Nepal has lost last three matches against the Philippines. Nepal and Philippines had played their first match in 1982, when Nepal had won the match by 1-0. In 2011, the Philippines had beaten Nepal 4-0. In 2014, the two teams encountered twice and the Philippines produced 3-0 victory on both the occasions. The Philippines are at 124th rank of FIFA while Nepal is at 170th ranking.
Nepal has been drawn in Group F along with Yemen, Tajikistan and the Philippines in the Qualifiers which will see the participation of 24 countries. Nepal was given a chance to play the qualifiers in the capacity of AFC Solidarity Cup winner and as the replacement of Kuwait.
The group winners and runners-up will book their places in the final where they will join 12 teams who have already qualified for the Asian cup through the 2018 FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup Preliminary Joint Qualification round two.
Home matches at Halchowk
As the Dasharath Stadium is unavailable because of reconstruction, Nepal will play its first home match under the qualifiers against Yemen at the Armed Police Force's Halchowk Stadium. Nepal will take on Tajikistan in its second home match of the qualifiers on September 5.