Feb 15, 2016- Nepal’s men football team will battle it out against hosts India to secure their first South Asian Games gold in the category in 23 years. The match is scheduled to start at 7:15 Nepal Time at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Guwahati, India.
Nepal secured a berth in the finals after defeating Maldives by 4-3 in a staggering final minute comeback. In their opening match in the group stage, Nepal had cruised to a 5-0 victory over Bhutan but had suffered a defeat at the hands of Bangladesh by two goals to nil.
Meanwhile, India made a tentative start to their campaign with a 1-0 loss to Sri Lanka but bounced back to beat Maldives 3-2 to reach the semi-finals as group runners-up. They improved on their performance and were clinical against Bangladesh in a 3-0 victory.
Nepal have won SAG football tournament two times in the past – in 1984 and 1993. In 1999, Nepal were defeated in the final of eighth Saff Game by Bangladesh. The team entered the finals of the tournament for the first time in 17 years by defeating Maldives.
Only the national under-23 team is eligible to play in the SAG men’s football category, with three players over the age of 23 permitted in each team. Nepal are pinning hopes on striker Nawayug Shrestha, who heads into the final on a fine run of form. Shrestha completed a hat-trick–his third in a month in all competitions–to give Nepal the thrilling semi-final win on Saturday.
Coach Raju Kaji Shakya knows they are in for a tough battle against the home side. “India are the best team in South Asia and they have been playing really well at the Games. It won’t be easy playing them, with a partisan home crowd rooting them to the hilt,” he said.
But after a great comeback against Maldives, according to Shakya, there is a belief now coursing through the entire Nepali side that they can win an elusive third title. “We are playing a match where one victory will help us lift the trophy. If only we replicate our performance against Maldives, we will definitely return home with gold,” he added.