Final berth at stake for Nepal

  • AFC U-16 Women’s Qualifier
- Post Report

Sep 19, 2018-

Nepal take on Philippines on the inaugural day of the Group ‘E’ AFC U-16 Women’s Championship Qualifier at the APF grounds in Halchowk with hopes of clinching one of the two berths available for the Finals.

Top two teams from the four-team group qualify for the tournament proper in Thailand next year. Top two teams from another six qualifying groups along with the top three finishers of the last edition--North Korea, South Korea and Japan--will join the hosts Thailand in the Finals. The Group ‘E’ Qualifier kicks off with an early match between Myanmar and Malaysia before Nepal test themselves against Philippines later on Wednesday.

Nepal coach Ganga Gurung is counting on the team’s technical, tactical ability to fare well in the Qualifier. “We have had a very good closed camp training in the last two months,” said Gurung. She is also taking confidence from the fact that the girls made a remarkable run to the semi-finals of the SAFF U-15 Championship in Bhutan on August 9-18. “I hope the tournament exposure in Bhutan will come in handy in our bid to earn tickets to the Finals,” said Gurung.

Gurung believed the first match will be crucial in their bid to earn qualification. “We have been working really hard for this moment and we will give it all we have against Philippines,” said the former women’s national team player. Skipper Preeti Rai echoed similar views to her mentor, saying: “We are physically and mentally prepared for the opening game. We will give our best to turn the match in our favour,” said the 15-year-old.

Philippines coach Marielle Benitez was also gunning for victory against the hosts. She was also happy with the team’s preparations coming into the Qualifier. “We arrived here on Friday to acclimatize ourselves with the local conditions and look forward to play against Nepal,” said Benitez.

Philippines also took part in the AFF Championships in Indonesia on May 1-13, which gave them a good tournament experience coming into the Qualifier. They lost three matches and drew one in the five-team group. Philippines were pitted against Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. Benitez said their poor results in Indonesia will hardly bear any significance in the Qualifier but instead would only motivate them to play better.

Myanmar, who had finished runners up in the nine-team ASEAN sub confederation’s AFF Championships, arrive on high confidence as they also overcame Malaysia 2-1 in addition to thumping of the Philippines. Coach San Thein said they had five-months preparation for the tournament and were confident of qualifying for the Finals.

Malaysia head coach Timbangan Bin Ganai rued on short 10-day preparations for the Qualifier. “All the players are young students, it was not possible for us to train together for an extended period. But we will try our best to qualify for the next stage,” Ganai said. He also dubbed Nepal as the favourite due to the home advantage.

Published: 19-09-2018 09:16

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