KATHMANDU, Feb 6: Nepal and Pakistan will lock horns in a friendly football match on Wednesday at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu as the South Asian neighbors gear up for the upcoming AFC Challenge Cup.
The two teams are pitted in two different groups for next month´s Challenge Cup, which will be held at the same venue. So it is obvious that Wednesday´s friendly will serve as an opportunity for both the sides to evaluate their performances ahead of the Challenge Cup.
“Challenge Cup is an important tournament for us. This friendly is the preparation for the Challenge Cup,” Nepal´s head coach Jack Stefanowski had said while announcing the preliminary squad on Monday.
The final squad is most likely to be different than the previous national team as the Polish coach gave hints that he would give an opportunity to 31 players, including 10 new faces, for two friendly matches against Pakistan.
“We are still evaluating the performances of the players,” said Stefanowski, after downsizing the squad to 31 from 49 players. He has included eight forwards in the line-up after some well known strikers, including Jumanu Rai, Anil Gurung and Santosh Sahukhala, came under criticism for failing to score in the recent matches. So the coach is looking for more options to pinpoint the best striker.
Nepal has better head-to-head records over Pakistan. However, Nepal and Pakistan had settled for a 1-1 draw in their last encounter during the last edition of the SAFF Championship. Nepal was in need of a draw to at least reach the semifinal of the tournament and Nepali striker Bharat Khawas had scored a goal to cancel Pakistan lead then. Khawas had scored his first goal against Pakistan during a friendly match in 2008 in Pokhara.
Pakistan coach Milosavljevic Zavisa claimed that his team would try to put up improved performance. "We are aware that the presence of new coach has boosted Nepali players´ morale and we´ll try to improve our performance against them," said Zavisa upon his arrival in Kathmandu on Tuesday evening.
Pakistan and Nepal had played 11 matches so far, including all friendly and international matches, and Nepal had won five, drawn four and lost two.