In a stunning turn of events, defending champions and hosts India demolished insipid Nepal 8-0 in the men’s South Asian Federation Football Under-20 Championship in Bhubaneswar, India Sunday.
The Indians smarting from a surprise 2-1 defeat at the hands of Bangladesh in the opener were in a must win situation against Nepal to redeem themselves and stay in the competition.
They bounced back in a big way and stamped their authority and dominance on the match in style.
They outwitted,outplayed and outpaced the opponent in every department of the game. As expected, Team India resorted to an attacking brand of play from the outset.
Making their intentions clear,they came bursting out of the gate seeking an early goal. The offense showed good communication and coordination,creating a host of clear-cut scoring chances in the early part of the game. It was abundantly clear that the Nepali defense could not afford to become slack and,more importantly, had to hold their ground under intense pressure.
Showing no signs of slowing down,the Indians played at a blistering pace and kept pressing hard for the breakthrough. They were gifted the all important goal,following an unforced error on part of custodian Gurung who failed to get hold of the aerial ball. Both midfielders and defense performed solidly and had a big hand in the team’s huge victory. Given Nepal’s strong performances in the opening two matches, India’s victory margin was unanticipated and took everyone by complete surprise.
Nepal played reasonably well and restricted the opposition to a goal in the first half.Apart from that, the offense did display flashes of brilliance and made a few forays into the opponent’s penalty area.Despite trailing by a goal,they were very much in the game going into the break.
Nepal’s performance, however, took a dramatic U-turn in the second half as they fell apart making a total hash of the game.The constant pressure from the opponent proved too much for them to handle eventually. In contrast to the first half,they were mediocre ,listless and seemed lost in the wilderness in the last 45 minutes of action.
They mightily struggled to get into gear,failing to perform as a competitive unit. The team which played attractive and impressive football in previous two matches looked a shadow of its former self. The defense was badly exposed,torn apart and played a pivotal role in the team’s embarrassing loss.
Capitalizing on the weak and porous defense,India went on a 7-0 scoring rampage in the second half much to the opponent’s humiliation,agony and misery. With the defeat, Nepal’s prospect of reaching the final has diminished considerably.Nobody saw this coming and did not expect them to go down meekly. Nepal is not yet completely out of the picture.
With six points,they are tied with India but the latter with a better goal difference is second behind Bangladesh in standings. Undoubtedly,the way things stand,reaching the final is a tall order for Nepal.That said, as per the equation,they can make it only with a vastly improved performance,coupled with a victory margin of more than two unanswered goals against undefeated Bangladesh. Nepal must put behind the India debacle,learn from mistakes,reinvent themselves,get their confidence and focus back, enhance teamwork,be mentally and physically prepared,show hunger and urgency for success,give their best and rise to the occasion.
Team Nepal will need a very dominant performance defensively and offensively to overcome the odds stacked against them. There is absolutely no room for slip-ups,mediocrity, slackness and casual approach.
Head Coach Meghraj KC must motivate and encourage players to achieve above and beyond their potential. Also he has to address the team’s defensive woes. Undefeated Bangladesh plays Nepal,while India clashes against minnows Maldives in final matches of the round robin format on August 2nd.
By Sushil Thapa,Fairfax,VA, USA
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