The SAFF tournament’s hosts could all but guarantee their place in the semi-finals if they see off the Pakistani challenge, but the visitors will not roll over and play dead...
After a meritorious display against Bangladesh, where they slaughtered the Tigers, Nepal will look to capitalize on their impressive performance and book a berth in the semi-finals of the tournament.
This will be an alleviative of immeasurable quantity given Nepal’s previous shortcomings in major international tournaments.
“I think that a couple of factors played a big part. The fans were behind us, it was almost like an extra player, and I want to really thank them. And the players also played very well,” praised a relieved Nepal coach, Jack Stafenowski after the tension lifting win against Bangladesh.
While refusing to look too further forward he revealed, “My plan is to enjoy this match. We now get to see India and Pakistan play and then after that we may have a good chance (of going further).”
What is important though is that the Gorkhalis are in a fleeting glimpse of assuring themselves progression from the group. However Nepal will need to be more clinical in front of goal as they missed a host of opportunities in their last game.
“The first game is always very important. It gives tremendous motivation to the boys. It has given us three points, and we now carry good momentum for the rest of the tournament,” highlighted an enthusiastic coach, who’s teams victory has put a spring in the step of all of Nepal.
They will now look to carry on the same form into the game against Pakistan, who are reeling from gifting India a victory in the Group ‘A’ encounter that played out on Sunday.
An own-goal, contributed by Samar Ishaq led to Pakistan’s downfall, though they can take heart from what was a terrific encounter where they had India on the ropes for large parts of the game and were unlucky not to earn a point.
“The team’s performance was a breath of fresh air. Pakistan have come out of their defensive era and we gave the defending champions a run for their money so it’s a good sign for the future,” opined Pakistan’s former coach Tariq Lutfi on Pakistan coach Shahzad Anwar and his tactics to The Dawn.
“The new coach understands players well. Players are under less pressure now than they were under Zavisa Milosavljevic. This is a definite improvement for the team and hopefully we can do well in the coming matches,” elucidated Mohammad Essa, a former Pakistani playmaker.
Never-the-less the Shahins are now point-less in the group and find themselves pushed into the do-or-die corner of the SAFF ring. They too will take solace from a brilliant display against the favourites, however they now have to make their impression against a bubbling Nepal.
The match boasts of all the qualities to turn into a real firecracker. Nepal will go all out to win ensure a semi-final berth, while Pakistan will go all out to get a life-line in the group. Football enthusiasts all around are licking their lips.
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