By Sushil Thapa , Fairfax,VA
There is deep frustration on players and fans as the national football team of Nepal prepares to carry on their disastrous campaign forward in the Asian Football Confederation 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers in Kathmandu.
A run of defeats and sub par performances has pushed the home side into abyss. Their progress has been hampered and cut short by poor form. They face group leader Phillipines in yet another inconsequential home tie.
Since the host has already exited from the competition, the fixture is only of academic interest. Die hard fans are rightfully frustrated, tired and disappointed with the path of the team. In fact, the lacklustre showing has become an ongoing source of frustration for them.
As a result. on the eve of the third home game, unsurprisingly,they appear less expectant,unexcited, unenthusiastic and dispirited. I don’t blame them.
On the other hand, the visitors cannot relax or afford to become lax because there is still plenty at stake for them, especially to maintain their group leader status. By all accounts, they do not appear to be headed in that direction.
They flew into Kathmandu at least a week ahead of the game to acclimatize and experience the local conditions. It can be said that they have taken the challenge seriously. One thing is sure- they will put every inch of their effort to chalk up victory. They will seek to exploit every weakness and frailty in their opposition. Since they want to finish top of the group,they are aware of the fact that they have everything to lose.
Without a shred of doubt, the odds are heavily stacked against Nepal that has failed miserably in terms of performance. At the moment they are perpetually mired in mediocrity.
They face an uphill task for survival against a vastly superior opposition who are quicker, stronger and more tactically intelligent. Whether or not they are able to get off that run of mediocrity is yet to be seen.
If they continue to play as they have so far, they are staring defeat in the face and bound to further go down the hill,achieving nothing productive.And thus the end result will turn out to be no different than in the past that is agonizing and demoralizing.
It has been all about poor preparations,low morale, lack of team cohesiveness, lack of focus and lack of commitment, up to this point, Also players have not performed to their potential to further add to that list
Considering the opposition strengths, it is very obvious that Nepal will have to produce something very special against the best side in the group to upset the applecart.
Let us not forget that it was in the away opener that Nepal got a drubbing at the hands of the same opposition and never recovered to get back into the competition.From that point onwards, they have been on a steady slope down.
Besides,they have been out of sync,made complete hash of opportunities, and more importantly, their inability to bounce back has compounded their problem. As a result, they had to bow out of the tournament quite embarrassingly.
In second year as Head Coach,Japanese Koji Gyotoku has struggled to make a difference one bit when it comes to improving the team’s overall performance.He has been far from effective in his job and lacked/lacks the desire and ability to inspire confidence in players.
He has handled the same band of players, tried out different methods and approaches, but with little success .In fact, the team has lost its competitive edge, cohesiveness, fighting spirit and consistently under performed under his watch.
Nepal starts against Philippines as the overwhelming underdogs. I just wonder how they are going to reverse their run of poor form. There is not much they can do to turn the game in their favour, if they fail to overcome lethargy, sloppiness which has been their Achilles heel this entire competition.
My only hope is that Nepal is able to achieve something out of nothing. But it is easier said than done. It will take quite an effort,coupled with a solid performance.