By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax,VA
The opening ceremony of the 13th South Asian Games got off to an electrifying and colourful start as fireworks lit up the sky at Dasharath Rangasala in Kathmandu.
Promising athletes from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka chasing their dreams and aiming for the top honour are geared up for South Asia’s biggest sporting event.
Evidently Nepal men’s football team will be the cynosure of all. They open South Asian Games defense against Bhutan. It is an intriguing but crucial fixture for them.
The home side must get off to a winning start to get the early momentum in the round robin league competition .
They go into the game as favorites, and it is imperative that they live up to its billing. In the past meetings between the two sides,statistics heavily favor the host.
Besides, Nepal has enjoyed success,winning the title three times in 1984,1993 and 2016.On the other hand,so far Bhutan has failed to get the ball rolling in the right direction, and they are yet to taste success.
Just a word of caution,statistics become irrelevant and meaningless if Nepal fails to perform on the field.All that matters is a winning performance.
Coming back to the present, Bhutan might carry the tag of underdogs, but they are by no means a pushover. They are a vastly improved outfit packed with talents. They defeated Bangladesh 1-0 in their first match. They are playing their second match in a gap of 24 hours.
They have been performing reasonably well in international tournaments lately and improved their world football standings.
In recent international outings, they have proven to be resolute, determined and stubborn. I expect them to put in everything in their effort to prove themselves and upset the apple cart. Do not be surprised if they spring a surprise.
Nepal cannot afford to take the opponent lightly or underestimate their strengths.They have to go full throttle from the start in order to take control of the proceedings. Otherwise,it might turn out to be a difficult, tough and challenging encounter.
The home -field advantages clearly gives Nepal a clear edge over their opponents. Long as they are able to capitalize, they will have the upper hand and find themselves in a dominant position.
Given Bhutan’s strengths and weaknesses,Team Nepal might want to play aggressively by employing the 4-3-3 attacking formation.That said,they need more clinical finishing, consistency, organized and compact play.
Everyone agrees that the host has a realistic chance of winning the tournament.Players must have the focus, desire, winning attitude and commitment to deliver the desired result. They have to show the ability to play well when it matters the most.
In my opinion, Nepal must prevail over Bhutan in order to get off to a fast start.A winning start will definitely boost players morale and confidence for the next game. They have to rise to the challenge in must win games and not succumb to the pressure of the moment. It would be a huge disappointment if they let the chance slip by.
Bikesh Kuthu, Arpan Karki, Deep Karki
Ananta Tamang, Suman Aryal, Bikram Lama, Bikash Khawash, Mikchen Tamang, Chirring Gurung, Rajesh Pariyar
Sujal Shrestha (C), Sunil Bal, Hemant Thapa Magar, Nitin Thapa, Sesehang Amdangbe, Tej Tamang,
Rajiv Lopchan, Abishek Rijal, Rejin Subba, Prezen Tamang
As per the rule, team can field three senior players (Bikesh Kuthu, Sujal Shrestha & Bikram Lama)
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