By Sushil Thapa,Fairfax,VA
The men’s national football team of Nepal got off to a losing start in the second round of the 2026 World Cup and 2027 AFC Asia Cup qualifiers in Doha, United Emirates Thursday.
They went down to heavy favorites the United Arab Emirates 0-4 as predicted.In fact,the final outcome did not come as a surprise.
The hosts dictated play for the most part, but they were far from best.They relied on pace,power, physicality,short and long passes, coupled with individual flair,tactical prowess and technical superiority.
They put the game beyond the reach of the opposition in the first half by scoring four unanswered goals and ensuring themselves an easy victory in front of an expectant home crowd.
Prior to the match the main point of interest was Team Nepal’s overall performance.The one question on everyone’s mind was; how competitive could they be?
The Nepali outfit did go down by a wide margin, but, by and large,they put in a spirited performance especially in the second half.
They made a promising start catching the fancied opponent by surprise but fizzled out quickly. Credit goes to the young offensive line for launching a few scoring opportunities in both halves.
Team Nepal had to resort to frantic defending as they faced a flurry of attacks from the opposition. As a result,they were pinned down in their own half.
The complexion of the game did not change much in the second half as the home team dominated the proceedings.
The Nepali defense stubbornly defended,keeping the opposition at bay. They displayed great composure, dogged determination and gallantly defended despite constant pressure.
Denying the opponent a single goal in the second half was in itself an achievement of some sort for the team.
There is no reason for the young Nepali outfit to feel deflated.They played their hearts out and lost to a much superior opponent.
Now the stage is all set for the clash between both winless Nepal vs Yemen in Group H on Tuesday in Kathmandu.
It is imperative for the team to maintain a positive mindset moving forward.They have to get back their mojo. Equally important is staying focused,confident and committed.
The key here is learning from mistakes and not dwell on them.Turning the setback into a comeback should be the ultimate goal.
Keeping this in mind,they must prepare themselves mentally and physically for the home match against Yemen.
With the crucial home advantage,Nepal does stand a fairly good chance to bounce back and redeem themselves.
However, team cohesiveness needs marked improvement.They have to be a lot sharper offensively and much better at finishing.
The midfielders and defense have to display more compactness.The overall performance has to be at a higher level collectively and individually .
War-ravaged Yemen is higher in FIFA rankings than Nepal. In the previous four meetings between the two nations,Yemen enjoys a 3 win and 1 draw record against Nepal.
The last time Yemen and Nepal clashed was in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers in 2000 won comprehensively 3-0 by the former.
Yemen advanced to the second round of the qualifiers by beating and drawing Sri Lanka .They lost to Bahrain 0-2 in the second round of the qualifiers.
They are eyeing to turn the tide against Nepal and thus maintain their perfect no defeat record intact.
To put it simply, the Yemeni side is no pushover and Nepal will require optimum effort to prevail at the end.