With only three days left for the Group D qualifiers of AFC Challenge Cup, host Nepal is in the last phase of training. Nepal is yet to announce the final list of 23 players from among the 28 undergoing closed camp training. Nepal is pitted against Bangladesh, Palestine and Northern Mariana Island in the qualifiers.
A total of eight teams -- winners of all five groups, two best runner-up teams and the host Maldives -- will qualify for the finals to be held in 2014.
Republica´s Prajwal Oli caught up with Nepal´s head coach Jack Stefanowski during a training session at the Rajdal Batallion playground in Lagankhel on Wednesday. Excerpts:
How is the training coming along?
Very well. The players have shown a lot of improvement. They have come together as a team and I am very happy.
What should Nepal supporters expect during the qualifiers?
Matches will be competitive. Let´s hope we qualify; we should be positive. Everyone is working hard for qualification.
On what ground can you say that we could qualify as we lost both the international friendly matches played against Pakistan at home recently?
We have been working hard and practising a lot after the friendlies with Pakistan. Therefore the matches of the Challenge Cup will be more competitive than those against Pakistan.
How strong are Nepal´s opponents?
Palestine seems to be the strongest team in the group. We should focus on the first two matches. (Nepal takes on Northern Mariana Island, Bangladesh and Palestine on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday respectively.) I could not gather much information about Northern Mariana Island but they have a good goalkeeper. I am hopeful of beating them. Bangladesh is a well-known opponent to Nepal. They have a foreigner coach and are in high spirits. I have a strategy in mind but I will not disclose it.
Nepali team seems to have a recurring problem in the forward and midfield line-up. How are you going to address it?
We held special individual training as well as team training to overcome those problems. It is not a matter of forward and midfield only. We need to build the team from the bottom up.
Is there any injury problem in the team?
No, there is no big injury. Bijay Gurung (winger) has knee injury but it is not serious and he is recovering.
When will the final team be announced?
The team will be announced tomorrow (Thursday). Some new faces might get chance in the squad. Everyone is working hard in the training session.