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Goalless in 18 months and 7 games, then goal in the third game in a row

Kathmandu: It took 18 months for the Nepali senior national football team to score its first international goal and win after September 2019.

After defeating Chinese Taipei 2-0 in the Asian selection of the World Cup 2022, Nepal could not even score a goal for a year and a half. A few months ago, Nepal scored a goal in the final of the tri-national Invitational International Football Tournament held at the home ground and won 2-1. Earlier, Nepal had played a goalless draw in both the league matches against Kyrgyzstan's U-23 national team and Bangladesh's senior national team.

Sanjog Rai and Vishal Rai of Nepal scored in the final against Bangladesh. Sanjog scored the first goal. Senior players in the Nepali national football team are gradually being displaced. Veteran Vikram Lama is injured. Vimal Ghartimagar, who had high hopes for Nepali football, is also resting after treatment. Biraj Maharjan had announced his retirement a few months ago after leaving the team. The influence of the players who made their debut in international football in the last 4/5 years is increasing in the Nepali national team.

After the trilateral invitational football, Nepal had hired Abdullah Almutairi as the coach for the World Cup qualifiers. His first competition was the rest of the Asian selection for the World Cup. These games were being held in Kuwait and Nepal had yet to play Chinese Taipei, Jordan, and Australia. Before that, a friendly match with Iraq was confirmed. Bharat Khawas, Sujal Shrestha, Ranjit Dhimal, and Vikesh Kuthu could not make a place in the team announced by coach Almutairi. Some new faces found a place. Pujan Uparkoti, Gautam Shrestha, Santosh Tamang, Manish Dangi, and other first-choice players are such faces.

He also made new players his first choice in the game against Iraq. Experienced Vishal Rai and talented Vikas Khawas could not make a place in the first choice. Apart from goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Chemjong and defender Rohit Chand, some of the first-choice players in the Nepali team have the experience of the last 5-6 years and all the others were new.

While the team was being announced, the choice of coach Almutairi was questioned. Almutairi seems to be very active on social media. These AFC Pro licensed coaches keep writing statuses to calm down Nepali football supporters. Earlier, Nepal did not have a pro-license trainer.

"I urge everyone to exercise restraint towards our players and the outcome," he wrote on Facebook after playing with Iraq. We will use new mindsets and methods. It may be difficult to implement at first. Don't pressure players for results. We are working for a brighter future. If the result is not in our favor, blame me, not the player. '

Almutairi has previously coached clubs in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, as well as the U-16 national team in Uzbekistan. Earlier, when Graham Roberts became the coach in 2011, his popularity had increased. Under his tutelage, Nepal reached the semi-finals of the SAAF Championship and was selected for the AFC Challenge Cup.

Roberts resigned after being knocked out of the first round of the AFC Challenge Cup in 2012 after losing all three matches of the Nepal Group, a one-year term. In his training, Nepal reached the second round of the Asian selection of the World Cup for the first time. Since 1993, Nepal has not been able to win a title in senior international football.

But in 2016, the Nepali senior national team won two consecutive tournaments, the Bangabandhu Gold Cup and the Solidarity Cup, and the U-23 national team also won the South Asian Games-Green Gold. Earlier, some players, including national team captain Sagar Thapa, were arrested on match-fixing charges. In the Bangabandhu Gold Cup, Bangladesh and Bahrain had U-23 national teams and a club.

Therefore, the first senior international title that Nepal has won after 23 years is the Solidarity Cup. Nepal had also won gold in green football after 23 years. At that time, many players of the senior team were also on the U-23 team. Bangabandhu had Bal Gopal Maharjan, Saga had Raju Kaji Shakya and Solidarity Cup had Koji Gyotoku. Since then, Nepal's performance in the senior international competition has not been satisfactory. Nepal has won 3, drawn 2, and lost 14 of the last 19 matches. This does not include the match against Kyrgyzstan's U-23 national team. That is why hope has increased from Almutairi.

Nepal's defeat in the friendly match against Iraq was natural. Despite scoring 6 goals, Nepali players also scored 2 goals. That is what remained remarkable. Nepal defeated Chinese Taipei 2-0 in the World Cup qualifier on Thursday night. This is sure to put Nepal in fourth place in the group.

The four best fourth teams from the eight groups in the second round of the Asian selection will advance to the third stage of the Asia Cup selection. Nepal is struggling for that. Bigger than that, the Nepali team is constantly scoring goals in the game because you have to score a goal to win the game.

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