The Blue Tigers will use the game as valuable preparation ahead of their next AFC Asian Cup qualifier…
India were scheduled to face Lebanon in a friendly match to prepare themselves for their upcoming AFC Asian Cup qualifier against the Kyrgyz Republic next week but were forced to cancel the match as the visitors could not arrange the necessary visas for their players to travel to India. As a replacement to Lebanon, neighbours Nepal agreed to play a friendly match against India with the sole reason being unchanged. The team will meet at the Mumbai Football Arena on Wednesday.
The Indian National team is currently enjoying a good run of form having defeated Myanmar in their last international match before securing a top 100 position in the FIFA rankings. The Indians also sit at the top of their qualifying group in the Asian Cup qualifiers after defeating Myanmar but are yet to face either of Macau and the Kyrgyz Republic.
India hosted Puerto Rico on the same venue on 3rd September last year. The home team won the game 4-1
As for the visitors, Nepal are having some difficult times. The Gorkhalis were hammered in their opening match of the qualifiers with a 4-1 thrashing to the Philippines in Manila. The Reds are yet to face Yemen and Tajikistan in the qualifiers and sit at the last position in Group F.
The game bears a lot of importance for the Blue Tigers as the team will play a key AFC Asian Cup qualifier against the Kyrgyz Republic in seven days’ time. The National team will also be looking to face the future as the chances of lining up without talisman Sunil Chhetri are high. This game will help the team to clear all the rustiness caused by the Federation Cup games which were played in testing situations in Orissa.
Nepal played their last encounter on 28th March 2017 against Asian heavyweights the Philippines, a game they lost 4-1. In the last three games India have played against Nepal, the Blue Tigers have won two and drawn one. The Indian team faced Nepal in a World Cup qualifier in 2015 and a friendly in August, which the Blue team won 2-0 and drew goalless respectively. It was Stephen Constantine’s first game in-charge of the team in his second stint. From 173rd, the Englishman has taken transformed the side into the top 100 teams in World football. The third one was a SAFF encounter, a game the team won handsomely, battering the South Asian rivals 4-1.
With ample time on their side, recovering from the recently concluded season’s fatigue has not been tough for the Indian players. However, the absence of Udanta Singh will be felt on the pitch against Nepal. Though, the absence of any major injury among the Indian camp come as a welcome news for Indian coach Stephen Constantine, who is expected to give some of the new names in the squad a chance against Nepal.
In more good news, captain Sunil Chhetri has returned to full fitness but is unlikely to feature in this one to save him for the key fixture against the Kyrgyz Republic.
Nepal will be missing two of their key players in Rabin Shrestha and Rajin Dhimal who are out with injuries. The Nepalis will also miss captain Anil Gurung in the squad who is likely to be replaced by Biraj Mahajan who will be the acting captain against India tomorrow.
Head to Head
The two sides have met 18 times, of which India have won the majority of the matches with 12 wins while Nepal managed to win two matches. India, in all of these fixtures, have scored a total of 31 goals while Nepal have managed only a meagre 9. The remaining four matches were drawn between these two teams. Their most recent meeting was in December 2015 in the SAFF Championship where India defeated the Nepalis 4-1.
Stephen Constantine-India : “We are thankful to the Nepal team for accepting the match on such short notice. Nepal is a very hard-working team as you have seen in every game they play. I know the mentality there so we expect a huge deal from them as they fight till they can’t fight anymore. I don’t think there are any easy teams at the international level.”
Koji Gyotoku-Nepal : “In the last two or three years, the Indian team has improved so much,” said the Nepal head coach before adding, “but we will try to do the best.”
Gyotoku was also asked about his objective for the match against India, “We need to get something from tomorrow’s match. Of course, we will try to win but we will need to get something.”
Man to Watch
Robin Singh-India: One of the most dependable strikers in the country, Robin Singh is expected to turn up against Nepal tomorrow. The East Bengal No. 9 is known for poaching goals but also excels in tracking back and helps his team defend against opposition set-pieces. Singh is also known for his aerial prowess which would come handy against the short-statured Nepalis and his physical presence ahead will also help India finish chances and go through the Nepal defence.
Bimal Gharti Magar-Nepal: The young Nepali striker is arguably the best player of the visiting team. The 19-year old has trained with FC Twente in Europe and also has played for Anderlecht in Belgium. Magar, who plays as a traditional No.9 in front of the opposition’s goal, has a tendency of going on solo forward runs and boasts tremendous pace. He has scored for Anderlecht’s youth team against Brazilian giants Atletico Paranese and has been the subject of a transfer to Marbella FC in Spain, which speaks volumes about his talent.
India (4-1-3-2): Gurpreet (C), Kotal, Jhingan, Anas, Narayan, Borges, Eugenson,Bikash Jairu, Jackichand, Jeje, Robin.
Nepal (4-4-2): Chemjong, Ananta, Chaudhary, Kamal, Maharjan, Bista, Chand, Rai, Sujal, Khawas, Magar.
The game will be live on Star Sports 2 and Hotstar at 7 pm IST. You can also follow live commentary of the match on Khel Now.