Nepal advance at the expense of hosts India

Feb 14, 2019-

Nepal advanced to the final of the Hero Women’s Gold Cup football tournament with a 3-0 hammering of Iran at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, India, on Wednesday. Nepal waited agonising for a few hours despite the victory to know their fate. And when Myanmar defeated the hosts 2-0 in the late fixtures, Nepal was assured a place in the final along with Myanmar. Myanmar topped the four-team tournament with maximum nine points while Nepal finished second with six. India ended up third with 3 points just ahead of bottom team Iran. Had India won, Myanmar, India and Nepal would have all finished on six points and the goal difference would have come into play to decide the top two teams.

Nepal broke the deadlock in the 40th minute through Anita Basnet the opponents ranked 60th in FIFA rankings. Bhandari, who also scored twice in Nepal’s 2-1 victory over India on Monday, doubled their advantage in the 59th minute. The forward sealed the victory with her second individual and fourth goal of the tournament in the 89th minute. With the second goal, she also took her international goals tally to 19.

Placed at 108th position in FIFA rankings Nepal came into the tournament as an underdog and lost to Myanmar 3-0 on Saturday before seeing off the hosts 2-1 on Monday. It was Nepal’s first ever victory over India, ranked 62nd in  the FIFA world rankings, in 10 encounters since the two sides played for the first time during the 2010 SAFF Women’s Championship. While seven previous matches had ended in favour of India, two had finished in draws.   

Nepal coach Hari Khadka said his plan to score in counter attack worked. “Though we came in the tournament as a weaker team, we proved ourselves as a dark horse. Beating India in the last match provided a huge motivation to our team,” said Khadka. “Out girls played really well and executed our plan to perfection,” said Khadka, who singled out striker Bhandari as the weapon his team.

Nepal, India in same group

Nepal and India are drawn in same group in the second round of the Asian Qualifiers for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament 2020 at AFC House on Wednesday.

The two team are drawn in Group ‘A’ along with hosts Myanmar and Indonesia for the event to be played from April 1 to 9. The second round of qualifier has three groups of four teams each. Winners of each group will join Australia, North Korea, South Korea, China and Thailand in two groups of four. The top two teams from each group will then make into playoffs. The two winners from the playoffs will then qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with hosts and reigning Asian champions Japan. Nepal had qualified for the second round in November last year after finishing third in the Group ‘C’ of the preliminary qualifier. Nepal had played 1-1 draw in all three matches against India, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Meanwhile, the U-19 women team of Nepal have been drawn with Australia, Uzbekistan and host Myanmar in Group ‘A’ of the second round qualifier of the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship to be played form April 26 to 30. The eight teams in the second rounds of qualifier were divided into two groups of four teams.

The group winners and runners-up will join hosts Thailand, reigning champions Japan, North Korea and China in the finals in October. (PR)

Published: 14-02-2019 10:13