KATHMANDU, June 20: After a victory and a defeat, host Nepal will take on Uzbekistan in its third match of the Group D qualifiers for the AFC U-22 Championship on Wednesday at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu.
Uzbekistan had defeated Bangladesh 2-1 in its first match, while Nepal had defeated Bangladesh 4-1 and lost 1-0 to Yemen.
With two matches in hand, Nepal must win its third match to keep alive its hope of making it to the final round of the tournament as only the top two teams qualify for the final stage. In the five-team qualifiers, Nepal lies in the fourth spot despite having equal three points as that of the top three teams -- Jordan, Uzbekistan and Yemen -- on the basis of head-to-head results.
"We are in a do-or-die situation and we will target victory in our next match against Uzbekistan," Nepal´s coach Krishna Thapa said during the post-match press conference after his side´s defeat at the hands of Yemen on Monday.
"We will adopt an offensive strategy as a defeat or a draw is likely to diminish our chances of advancing into the next stage," Thapa said, adding, "Though Uzbekistan is a strong side, it is not unbeatable."
Thapa also revealed that he would make no changes to the starting line-up of the team that played against Bangladesh and Yemen. "All the players of the squad are fit and free from injury," said Thapa.
Meanwhile, Uzbekistan coach Evstafeev Aleksey predicted that the match would be tough. "Match against the home team will always be tough," said Aleksey. He added that his side was looking for victory against every opponent in the qualifiers and that every match would be different.
In FIFA´s senior men´s ranking, Nepal is placed in the 149th spot and Uzbekistan in the 66th spot.
Aleksey is in no mood to take the home team lightly and also lauded Nepal´s style of play. "Nepal plays a fast game and we will come up accordingly against the home side." Regarding the small build of Nepali players, Aleksey said, "Spain too has small players but it is one of the strongest teams in the world."
Despite Aleksey´s comment, Uzbekistan with its taller players will have physical advantage over the home side while Nepal will have the advantage of home ground and local crowd.
In Wednesday´s kick-off match, group favorite Jordan will take on Bangladesh, which has lost both the matches it has played so far. Jordan has played only one match in which it defeated Yemen 4-0.