KATHMANDU, July 16: Nepal U-23 football team is facing Uzbekistan in its second group stage match of the AFC U-23 Championship 2018 Qualifiers with the aim of improving its defensive performance on Monday.
Nepali youth team made a disappointing start to the qualifying campaign with a 5-0 defeat to United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the opening match on Saturday.
Nepal conceded two penalties in the match where defenders made some costly defensive mistakes against the host team at Tahnoun Bin Mohammad Stadium in Al Ain in front of more than 5,000 Nepali spectators.
Talking to the Republica, Nepali team manager Sanjeev Mishra said that the team doesn’t afford to repeat the same defensive errors against Uzbekistan. “The match against the UAE was all about our defensive weaknesses. We let them score easily making costly mistakes. We should not do it again against Uzbekistan,” said Mishra, who is also All Nepal Football Association (ANFA)’s development director.
Meanwhile, Uzbekistan has made a winning start to the competition registering 3-1 victory over Lebanon in its opening match on Saturday to stay in the second place in Group D behind the UAE which is ahead with superior goal difference after beating Nepal.
Mishra also said that there will be no change in the tactics and playing system of the team. However he hinted that there could be some changes in the playing XI. “The tactics and playing system of the team will remain the same but there may be changes in the playing XI especially in defense and midfield,” added Mishra. “We felt that the team lacked physically strong player in the central midfield and we have to make change in the defense to make it more compact.”
Nepal had opted 4-5-1 playing system against the UAE with skipper Bimal Gharti Magar leading the attack and Sunil Bal, Suman Lama supporting him from either wings. Heman Gurung and Hemanta Magar were in the central midfield while Anjan Bista played the role of second striker just behind Bimal Gharti Magar.
Central midfielder Pujan Uparkoti, who made debut for the U-23 side in a friendly against Bangladesh last week, is likely to come in the playing XI to replace one of Heman Gurung and Hemanta Thapa Magar while winger Bishwas Shrestha is also a favorite to make place in the team. Likewise, Kamal Shrestha is likely to replace fullback Dinesh Rajbanshi in the defense. However, he said that there won’t be any change in goalkeeping role despite Alan Neupane performing below par in the opening match.
Despite having good support from the crowd of 5,000 Nepali spectators, players were a bit nervous against the UAE, according to Mishra. “Although there was big crowd cheering for us since 5,000 of the total 5,423 there were Nepalis but still the players couldn’t come out of nervousness as it was the first match. Hopefully, we will see the same number of people on Monday as well,” Mishra expressed his hope.
Not repeating the defensive mistakes against Uzbekistan will help Nepali players give a strong fight against the central Asian nation. “The Uzbek side is obviously a stronger team than us, but we can give a tough fight to them if we don’t make costly defensively mistakes,” concluded Mishra.
In other match of Group D, Lebanon will face the UAE at Tahnoun Bin Mohammad Stadium.