Old rivalries are set to be renewed on the big stage as India take on Nepal in the SAFF Championship 2021 final on Saturday at the National Stadium in Male. India will be eyeing their eighth South Asian title. Meanwhile, Gorkhalis will be playing in their first-ever SAFF Championship final and are on the cusp of making Nepal football history.
The stakes are much higher for Nepal as a SAFF Championship title can truly rekindle the state of the sport in the country. Nepal have been a much different side in the current edition compared to their previous outings in South Asia's biggest footballing event.
Nepal SAFF Championship 2021 Playing Style
Nepal have played an attacking brand of football in most of the matches in the competition. They have scored the joint second highest number of goals (5) alongside India and are not afraid to play with a high line of defense.
That leaves gaps at the back, which has also made them concede four goals in four games so far. But they have compensated for a sloppy defensive display with red-hot scoring form. Nepal have the highest diversity in terms of goal scorers in the current SAFF Championship. A total of four players have scored five of their goals in four matches.
Nepal SAFF Championship 2021 Form and Results
Nepal started the campaign with a historic 1-0 win over Maldives in front of a sea of Maldives football supporters in Male. The game was evenly matched in terms of play, before an explosive run from Manish Dangi propelled them to their first three points.
Abdullah Al Mutairi's side were much more progressive in their play in the second game against Sri Lanka. The team went to a 2-0 lead within an hour with goals from Suman Lama and Anjan Bista. Sri Lanka made it 2-1 before Ayush Ghalan scored a third to make it 3-1 before the island nation pulled one back to make it 3-2.
Nepal were a much different side against India. They were aware that leaving out space at the back could be a problem against the Indian attacking line-up. The Gorkhalis played a tight game at the back but failed to keep a clean sheet. This was due to Sunil Chhetri's strike late in the second-half as Nepal faced their first defeat of the SAFF Championship 2021.
The Gorkhalis needed just a single point in their final league game against Bangladesh to secure their place in the historic final. Al Mutairi's men came back from behind to earn a 1-1 draw against a 10-men Bangladesh. Anjan Bista scored a late goal to neutralize Bangladesh's early lead.
Nepal SAFF Championship 2021 Head Coach
Abdullah Al Mutairi is the current head coach of Nepal's men's national football team. The 39-year old has not played professional football but has been a decent coach so far.
He took charge of Nepal earlier in the year after his managerial experience at Radhwa, Al Shahania and the Kyrgyzstan national team in various capacities.
Mutairi's time at Nepal was not aloof from off-field controversies. He recently had announced to resign citing corruption issues inside Nepal football but decided to continue upon an investigation by the authorities.
Nepal SAFF Championship 2021 Key Players
Kiram Limbu has been one of the finest goalkeepers in South Asia for a long time and has had an illustrious career in India as well. He has played for clubs like Minerva Punjab and RG Punjab in the I-League.
Rohit Chand is yet another key name in the Nepal squad. The 29-year-old defensive midfielder has vast experience of playing outside Nepal. He is currently with Persija Jakarta (Indonesia). Chand has also played for clubs like Persatuan Sepakbola (Indonesia) and HAL (India) in the past.
Nawayug Shrestha and Anjan Bishta have been Nepal's finest striking duos in the past. They will be pivotal to scoring goals against India in the SAFF Championship 2021 final.
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