News Nepal Must Play Like Champions Against India To Make History (Sr. Columnist Sushil Thapa Writes)
Sushil Thapa

In a drama-filled encounter Nepal came from behind to hold on to a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh and secure a place in the final of the 13th South Asian Football Federation Championship in Male, Maldives Wednesday.

Fortune indeed favors the brave. We saw that in the last ten minutes of play as Nepal frantically went all out to restore parity.

At that point, Bangladesh was in control of the match and marching towards victory, then the wheels fell off. They were reduced to ten men after the goalkeeper was red carded.

On the other hand, Nepal in desperate need of an equalizer pressed hard and got rewarded with a spot kick, which was converted by ace striker Anjan Bista, thus salvaging a point.

Team Nepal entered the vital fixture with the right mindset, approach and strategy. They upped the ante after conceding an early goal.

They played a free flowing and attacking style of football for the most part. They kept the opponent under pressure through fast build-ups, aggressive play and counter attacks. Overall, it was a consistent defensive and offensive performance.

With one match away from winning the elusive trophy, Nepal has a huge obstacle to overcome in the final. Heavy favorites India stands in their way. Everyone agrees, they have a shot at glory.

With their lone defeat coming at the hands of India in the tournament, they get another chance to settle the score with the Indians. They will need to put together a a winning game plan and strike back with vengeance, but it is easier said than done. When all is said and done, it is the team work that wins championship.

The million-dollar question is whether Nepal can get the job done. This is the moment we have been waiting for. Undoubtedly, now is the time to deliver the result. They must make the best of this opportunity.

It is absolutely crucial for Team Nepal to take their performance to a whole new level. Given the challenging task ahead of playing India, they have to step up, precisely execute the game plan and go toe to toe with the opponent.

Bringing the now or never attitude into the match and performing up to par is indispensable. Players have to rise to the occasion and show character, confidence, composure, grit and resolve to get the task done.

Having said that, team cohesion needs further improvement, offense must get much sharper and defense has to show more resiliency and solidity.

The offense must bring aggressiveness, intensity, more of a sense of urgency in their performance and cash in on scoring opportunities. The absence of striker Anjan KC for the final game is a huge blow to the team.

There is zero room for mediocrity, sloppiness and complacency if they want to break the Indian stranglehold on the championship.

It reminds me of the old adage, the best defense is a good offense. The defense performance will be crucial for the team. It will require rock solid defending against the opposition whose strength lies in set pieces, aerial duels and offensive efficiency.

They cannot allow any space and freedom, especially to India’s ace striker Sunil Chettri who has a knack for scoring goals. With four goals so far,he is the tournament’s top scorer. He is the danger man, and it would be a blunder to let him loose.

The Indians are not invincible, for sure. The only way Team Nepal can break their invincibility is by playing a perfect game.

Keep in mind, India has the momentum going into the final. After lackluster performance in the two opening matches, they turned things around when it mattered most.

In a must win match against Maldives, India played like champions and are the oddsmakers favorites in the final.

Nepal must play like champions to upset the apple cart and make history.

By Sushil Thapa,Fairfax,VA, USA

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