FIFA Ranking: 169
Nickname: The Gorkhalis
Last official match played: Philippines 4-1 Nepal (28th March 2017)
Coach: Koji Gyotoku
From the land of Mount Everest emerges the Nepalese national football team, a part of the close-knit South Asian Football Federation (SAFF). India's immediate neighbour towards the north-east have been constant underperformers in the region despite their riches of talent.
The Gorkhalis have always remained under the shadow of India within the subcontinent but have been a work in progress since the turn of the last decade. However, their early ouster from the 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup joint qualifying provided the opportunity to participate in the 2016 AFC Solidarity Cup; a trophy they added to their cabinet in the competition's very first edition.
Nepal was catapulted into the mix for qualification for the Asian Cup yet again as a result of their Solidarity Cup triumph in November last year. Slotting into Group F of the Third Qualification round, the Himalayan team faces stiff competition from Yemen, Philippines and Tajikistan for a place in the continent's flagship tournament.
Japanese coach Koji Gyotoku has completed a year of his stint at the helm of the national team. After losing their first qualifying game 4-1 away to the Philippines, Gyotoku could not have asked for better 'warm-up' oppositions in the form of India for his charges as they host Yemen a week later.
|Lessons from the past|
|HEAD -TO-HEAD||PLAYED||INDIA WINS||DRAWS||NEPAL WINS||GOALS BY INDIA||GOALS BY NEPAL||GOAL DIFFERENCE [INDIA]|
|INDIA vs NEPAL||18||12||4||2||31||9||+22|
According to history and statistics, it's a pretty lop-sided affair with the scale tilting heavily towards India's favour. However, Nepal sprung up a huge surprise in 2013 during their home SAFF Championship when they defeated the Blue Tigers 2-1 at the Dasarath Stadium in Kathmandu.
Most recently, Nepal were at the receiving end of a 4-1 thrashing in the 2015 SAFF Championship in Thiruvananthapuram where a certain teenager, Lallianzuala Chhangte scored a brace after coming on from the bench on his senior India debut.
Koji Gyotoku has left out former skipper Anil Gurung from his squad. The absence of Karna Limbu has also raised eyebrows on team selection back home. Full-backs Rabin Shrestha and Rajin Dhimal are out injured. Bikram Lama is expected to start in Mumbai despite his enforced absence in the Yemen match next week as he is carrying over a red card from the game against the Philippines in March.
|Players To Watch Out For|
Rohit Chand: The 25-year old who plays his club football in Indonesia with Persija Jakarta will be pulling the strings from the midfield and is one of the most important players for the Reds. The hard working central defensive midfielder has been playing in the national team for almost eight years now and will be eager to make a mark on the proceedings in Mumbai. He also has the experience of playing against Indian players having plied his trade for HAL a few seasons back.
Bimal Gharti Magar: All of 19 years old, Magar is the future as well as the present of Nepalese football. Having already scored against India two years ago, Magar had a great 2016 to cap it with two goals in the AFC Solidarity Cup. The striker has spent time with Dutch club FC Twente and Belgian clubs RSC Anderlecht and Club Brugge KV during his formative years.
GOALKEEPERS: Bikesh Kuthu, Kiran Kumar Chemjong Limbu, Bishal Shrestha;
DEFENDERS: Biraj Maharjan [Captain], Ananta Tamang, Aditya Chaudhary, Kamal Shrestha, Devendra Tamang, Jitendra Karki, Bimal Basnet;
MIDFIELDERS: Rohit Chand, Bishal Rai, Heman Gurung, Anjan Bista, Sujal Shrestha, Suman Lama, Hemant Thapa Magar;
FORWARDS: Bharat Khawas, Bimal Gharti Magar, Nawayug Shrestha.
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