NOTE: The writer is in hibernation mode since July. This is his first scouting report of the opponent of the Azkals. The friendly will be the first at home since 1997, when Estonia defeated them 1-0.
Our match with Nepal will be the last for October as a preview of the AFC Challenge Cup next year. They are the third South Asian team the Azkals has faced this year, after beating Bangladesh (3-0, AFC Challenge Cup Qualification) and Sri Lanka (1-1 in Colombo and 4-0 in Rizal Memorial, World Cup Qualifiers Asian First Round). This year, the Azkals are unbeaten against South Asia with two wins and a draw to show for. Would this be win number three for us? Or the visitors from the highest points of the world steal one from us like Kuwait did to us?
OVERVIEW: The Nepal national football team is controlled by the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) and is nicknamed The Gorkha Warriors. Their Home matches are played at the 25,000-seated Dasarath Rangasala Stadium in Kathmandu. Their are the hosts of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup, therefore this match is a preview of two of the qualified squads.
The team is ranked 135th in the FIFA rankings, 31 spots behind us. They are higher than Singapore (136), Indonesia (139) and even the defending Suzuki Cup Champions Malaysia (147).
Graham Roberts is the man at the helm for the Himalayan side since January. The former defender has a successful career as a player, being a member of one of the greatest Tottenham side in the early 80’s, alongside Osvaldo Ardiles, Glenn Hoddle, Steve Archibald, Garth Crooks, Ricardo Villa and manager Keith Burkinshaw.
RECENT MATCHES: The match will be only the second time they’ve met. Their last meeting was in 1982 for the King’s Cup in Thailand, with Nepal emerging as winners, 1-0. Current ANFA president Ganesh Thapa scored the winning goal in a match which also featured current PFF president Mariano Araneta.
KEY PLAYER: Ju Manu Rai
Ju Manu Rai (#11 in the picture) is a forward who plays for the highly-successful Nepal Police Club. He has nine goals for Nepal, the fourth-highest scorer. He is paired with Anil Gurung up-front, with both forwards scored in a 5-0 trashing of East Timor in the World Cup Qualifier.
However, we can’t find enough references about his style of play, because of limited sources on the internet.
MAN TO MATCH: Aly Borromeo
I picked the Captain to stop Rai from his tracks with his wide frame, extreme physicality, leadership abilities and tenacity on the field. With Stephan Schrock’s absence, the backs will work double time in order to stymie any Nepali attack.
GAME PLAN: Nepal will play a fast-paced passing game like as their manager Graham Roberts told to the media in a press conference. They will also play fearless football and they don’t care about the Azkals’ European-based players.
In order to stop the attacks, they must disable the wing play and keep good communication. And a little luck is also needed, something that we lacked against Singapore last Friday.
OUR ADVANTAGE: The Altitude and Nepal’s Bad Away Record
The biggest advantages the Azkals have aside from the home crowd is the sea-level altitude and the opponents’ bad away record. Nepal would lose to games held in a low-lying venues and when they are the visiting side. Their worst loss came at the hands of South Korea, 0-16 at Incheon eight years back.
MY FEARLESS FORECAST: It would be a close one but I picked the Azkals for a 2-1 win.
WELL, THAT’S IT FOR NOW.
WATCH THE FRIENDLY BETWEEN PHILIPPINES AND NEPAL LIVE FROM RIZAL MEMORIAL ON STUDIO 23. TELECAST STARTS AT 6PM WITH A PRE-GAME PRESENTATION. KICK-OFF STARTS AT 7:30PM.