News Nepal Must Prevail Over Bhutan
 (Sr. Columnist Sushil Thapa Writes..)
Sushil Thapa

Nepal’s losing streak in international football stretched further, following defeat to Pakistan at
 the 2018 South Asian Football Federation Championship in Bangladesh.

Led by interim Coach Bal Gopal Maharjan, Nepal desperately needed a bounce back win after
 underperforming at the recently concluded Asian Games in Indonesia.
 A consistent and competitive performance was imperative for Nepal to generate early 
momentum and build confidence.

They had to set the tone against Pakistan, avoid defeat and get off to a perfect start.
 Unfortunately, it did not materialize as they fell well short of expectations.
 The 1-2 defeat is a big blow to Nepal’s quest for South Asian Football Federation
Championship (SAFFC) title.

Nepal’s offense did come up with a much improved performance, launching forays,
 maneuvering moves and creating scoring chances, but they lacked the execution and finishing

Nepal, however, was found wanting in defense. In fact, defensive lapse in extra time cost them 
the match.
Pakistan did well to keep the opposition at bay despite intense pressure , especially in the 
second half.
 They were physically a stronger side with plenty of pace. They were dangerous in counter
 Despite defeat, all is not lost for Nepal.

Coach Maharjan boys have two matches to make up for
the loss, but it’s easier said than done.
 One thing is very obvious they have put more pressure on themselves, and they have made this 
task harder on themselves.
 If Nepal continues to play sloppy, uninspiring and below-par football, I cannot see by any
 stretch of the imagination how they are going to pull this off.

Nepal needs to regroup, regain focus and play with more conviction, effort and purpose.They
have to throw everything at the opponents to get the desired outcome.
As things stand now, there is no room for mediocrity. In the next match, Nepal takes on Bhutan,
a team certainly not a pushover anymore.
Though Nepal starts the match against Bhutan as the overwhelming favourites,there is no
guarantee that they will win.

Gone are the days when Bhutan used to be a fragile, weak and uncompetitive side. Over the
 years, they have improved a lot in every sphere of the game, and they have been steadily
climbing the FIFA rankings.
The players never give up attitude, aggression, enthusiasm and talent makes Bhutan a
dangerous outfit.

As I see it, it is not going to be an easy match for Nepal. They will require a solid performance 
to overcome Bhutan. It would be a huge mistake to underestimate or undermine the opponent.
 That said, Nepal has a good chance to secure the desperately needed victory. The opportunity 
should not be squandered, otherwise, their chances of qualifying to the knockout stage would

All I suggest is, just go out there, step up and play to your potential. The defense needs to 
tighten up and the offense must up the ante, show more aggression, come up alive and not
 waste scoring opportunities.

Along the same line, the midfielders who shoulder the bulk of load must play a pivotal
role,getting more involved in the proceedings.

Thapa is a senior journalist based in USA

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