By Nikhil Jitendran, KATHMANDU: (September 8, 2013 6:15 PM IST, Dashrath Rangasala, Kathmandu) Yousef Kargar had hoped earlier that his side avoid Nepal at all cost, as they were the tournament favourites and had momentum going for them. He didn’t get his wish.
After a goalless Group B match against toppers Maldives, Afghanistan find themselves having a mountain to climb knowing they will face the winners of Group A, Nepal, in the first semi-final.
Kargar acknowledged the challenge ahead for his Lions of Khorasan by elucidating, “Football is a game in which you can’t avoid your opposition. We were hoping to play India because Nepal has home crowd behind it. Now we face Nepal, and we are okay with it.”
“Nepal is very strong technically and have good speed. We will try to take care of their strong points, moreover it’s their home stadium, which is another positive for them. It’s a game, we have to first beat Nepal to reach the final, and whether it be India or Maldives there, we will be okay with it.” opined Kargar.
Though happy with his team’s performance against the Red Snappers of Maldives, he said, “Today we are satisfied with our game though we missed chances. I think we played a good technical game and played good possession football.”
The Afghans then maybe wary of the hosts perceived strengths – the crowd and their form – Jack Stafenowski, coach of Nepal isn’t taking anything for granted.
Speaking after downing the Blue Tigers of India, he bullishly expounded, “We are just going to enjoy this moment. We will take a look at Maldives and Afghanistan, get a good scouting report and then we move on from there. We will try and go all the way. We have gone past three and have two more to go.”
The American will especially focus on the Lions’ organization and meticulous planning that has seen them shift smoothly from attack to defence in the blink of an eye.
“It’s always fantastic, and it’s always great to play at our home. We always get such great support.” Stafenowski will hope for more of the same come Sunday.
It’s often a given syllogism that these are the kind of matches were form tends to be thrown out the window. That may be true in all respects on matchday.
Afghanistan will know yet another final is in their grasp while Nepal look at this with a desire to bring glory that has evaded the national front for decades and because they are in front of a home crowd craving success, it only adds more spice to an already brimming curry.
The game may not start of as an all-out explosion of attacking football, rather as two teams playing possum, waiting for the other to make the first move. As the game wears on though, with time ticking down, we can expect an epic.
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