Big test awaits Team Nepal at AFC qualifiers

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By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax, VA


The Group “A “ 2018 Asian Football Confederation Under-19 Championship qualifiers kicks off Tuesday in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Team Nepal is in the fray vying for one of the 16 spots to play in the final round taking place in Indonesia. Going into the competition, certainly, they wear the underdog tag and have a mountain to climb.

They will have to play   positive, aggressive and  free-flowing  football to have any realistic chance and prove their critics  wrong

The only real big question is, will they spring a few surprises? It is a sport, therefore, we cannot prematurely rule out that possibility. Besides, it is a talent-packed squad, however, talent alone is not enough to succeed.

When all’s said and done, all that really matters is a solid, consistent field performance and delivering the desired results. Also it is equally important that players perform up to the mark and live up to their potential.

Common sense tells us that they have to put their hearts and souls into the task, leaving no room for complacency to achieve some kind of success.

The tournament stands as a litmus test for our young booters who are determined to deliver a big performance. Time will tell. Our only hope is that they are able to yield positive results at the end of the day.

The two-time Under-18 South Asian Federation Football Championship(SAFFC) winners face formidable opponents in the likes of the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Kyrgyzstan.

They are up against adversaries of a different class and level whose strengths are pace, physical strength, mental toughness and tactical skills. Also they are better prepared for the challenge.

The middle eastern outfits appear to be in the driver’s seat and are expected to dominate the competition. With two top finishers in the group advancing  to the final round, expect fireworks.

Nepal’s opening game against the home side Kyrgyzstan is going to be very important. They must get off to a good start, that is crucial. It helps them build early momentum , confidence and boost their morale to make a deep run in the competition.Otherwise, their backs will be against the wall, and ultimately it will turn out to be a long, hard drawn out tournament.

Kyrgyzstan might not be in the same mold as the other three presumed top contenders in the group, but by no means, it is not going to be easy beating them in their own backyard.

That being said, a  lot depends on whether or not, the host is able to take full advantage of their home field.But let us not forget that they are also  a physical side packed with speed, which certainly  will pose problems to Nepal,

Nepal and Kyrgyzstan are evenly matched when it comes to overall playing standards. This is one match Nepal has an outside chance of causing an upset only if they raise their performance to a new level and play their best.

Nepal was badly exposed at the 2nd Under-18 SAFFC in Bhutan early this year despite successfully defending the title. Their overall performance was far from being desired, and they mightily struggled in every department of the game.

They have to focus  on playing more as a cohesive unit and need to do much better if they wish to make an impact at the AFC qualifiers.

The defense, offense and midfield have to come out firing out on all cylinders and players must play to their strengths and maximizing their full potential.There is literally no room for sloppiness or slackness or mediocrity.

Without a doubt, the tournament can prove a complete disaster for Team Nepal  should they fail to become competitive and turn things around,