As the Challenge Cup approaches, Goal.com profiles the 8 contenders who vie for a direct spot into the 2015 Asian Cup. In this edition, we focus on Nepal, the hosts.
COUNTRY NAME: Nepal
GROUP : A (along with Turkmenistan, Maldives and Palestine)
ADMINISTRATIVE BODY: All Nepal Football Association (ANFA)
FIFA RANKING: 152
NICKNAME: The Gorkhalis
Last Match Played: Nepal 0-1 Afghanistan (9th December, 2011 SAFF Cup)
|History And Team Highlights
The Nepalese National Football Team or the Gorkhalis as they are called is controlled by the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) which was founded in 1951 and received its affiliation to FIFA in 1970. It is now affiliated to both the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and FIFA.
However football in Nepal started with the training of youth players during the Narayan Narshingh Rana regime in 1921. Another man who was considered to play the pioneering role in setting up football in Nepal was Chandrajung Thapa. Funnily in the mid 90s local matches in Nepal used to be played with the winning team bagging an award of 100 or 200 goats!! Yes, you heard that right!
Although Nepal had been playing football with their neighbours pretty regularly, the need for competitive matches to be played by the national team led to the advent of the ANFA Cup where foreign countries were to be invited to Nepal to play matches.
Nepal organized its first international tournament on its own soil in 1982 where it played host to countries like India, Oman, Iran, Iraq and the likes for the Asian Youth Football Tournament.
In the recent past, Nepal do not have a good record in major tournaments. They had a clutch of high profile coaches though, with the likes of Rudi Gutendorf and Joe Kinnear coaching Nepal. Currently too, they are under the tutelage of massively experienced British coach, Graham Roberts.
Even in the SAFF Championship, which is played among South Asian nations, Nepal have been mediocre at best, finishing third in 1993 and semi-finalists in 1995 and 2011.
However the Men's football team were Gold Medalists in the 1984 South Asian Games in Kathmandu and also the 1993 Dhaka South Asian Games.
|History In The Challenge Cup
Nepal had failed to qualify for the last edition of the Challenge Cup in 2010. However they had qualified for the previous tournaments in 2008 and 2006. 2006 was their best performance as they recorded an impressive 3-0 rout of India in the quarter-finals before stumbling to Sri Lanka in the semi-finals in the penalty shootout. In 2008 however they failed to navigate past the group stages in a difficult group consisting of DPR Korea and Myanmar. They finished third just above bottom placed Sri Lanka and were knocked out.
With Nepal being the host nation of the 2012 Challenge Cup, the Men's football team will certainly look to go the whole distance as it looks to give the home supporters their money's worth and qualify for the Asian Cup.
|2012 AFC Challenge Cup Squad
Goalkeepers: Kiran Chemzong (MTSC), Bikash Malla( Nepal Army Club), Ritesh Thapa(NPC)
Defenders: Sagar Thapa (YHSC), Sandip Rai (LH MMC), Rohit Chand (HAL India), Robin Shrestha (NPC), Biraj Maharjan (MTSC), Sabindra Shrestha(LH MMC), Dipak Bhushal (LH MMC), Jitendra Karki (NRT)
Midfielders: Raju Tamang(Nepal Army Club), Nirajan Khadka(LH MMC) ,Bhola Silwal (NPC), Tanka Basnet( Nepal Army Club),
Forwards : Jumanu Rai(NPC), Santosh Sahukhala (LH MMC), Anil Gurung (LH MMC), Ganesh Lawati (APF), Bharat Khawas(NPC)
|Players To Watch Out For
Anil Gurung (23 years): Having had a brief stint with India's Shillong Lajong FC, the young Nepalese forward is one of the star players to watch out for. Currently he plays his club football in Manang Marshyangdi in native Nepal. He was a disappointment in the SAFF Championship however he would look to banish his poor form at home.
Jumanu Rai (29 years): The experienced striker who was in fine goal scoring form in the 2008 Challenge Cup, where he bagged 5 goals in 4 matches, needs to replicate his form if Nepal have chances of qualifying for the Asian Cup. Current top scorer in the Nepal squad with 9 goals from 29 appearances, it is upto the man from Nepal Police Club to lead his side to glory in his home country.
Rohit Chand (20 years): Another of Nepal's youth players who plied his trade in India for I-League strugglers HAL Bangalore. Chand, even at his young age, is a rock at the centre of defense and is cool and composed when in possession. Such is his talent, that British coach Graham Roberts asserted that he is good enough to play for top tier English sides like Arsenal and Tottenham.
Can Nepal's youthful team qualify for the Asian Cup in their own backyard? What DO YOU think?