5 greatest football games between India and Nepal
India take on Nepal in a one-off friendly game at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune on the 31st of August as the Blue Tigers prepare to entertain the mighty Iran side that is scheduled to make a visit for the 2018 World Cup Qualifier next month. India and Nepal, the two South Asian neighbors have had a thirty-year long history on the football pitch, where the duo has consistently been up against each other in various competitions. Although little hinges on today’s clash, we are in for a thrilling encounter if we go by the past matches played between the two sides. Even though India have enjoyed an upper hand over Nepal overall, the Nepalese have stunned the Blue Tigers on more than one occasion in recent times. Building up to the game in Pune, we take a look at five of the greatest games played between the two sides over the past thirty years.
#1 Nepal 0-2 India - 1985 South Asian Games
This was the first-ever meeting between the two sides and it took place on 21st December1985, in the 1985 South Asian Games. With both sides playing in a neutral venue at theBanglabandu National Stadium in Dhaka (Bangladesh), the rivalry started off on an evenplatform in terms of crowd support.
India though drew first blood in the game through SisirGhosh in the first half, but the Nepalese did well to halt the Indian charge and fought backwell after going down. But unfortunately, the fightback yielded nothing for Nepal as SisirGhosh popped up again to seal the victory for India.
The game might not be the best the twosides have produced in terms of entertainment, but it kick started a fierce footballing rivalryamong the two sides which continues to thrive in recent days. India later went on to win 107gold medals in the 1985 South Asian games which included 61 gold medals that saw themtop the charts at the end of the games.
#2 Nepal 2-2 India, Nepal win 4-3 on penalties - 1993 South Asian Games
Eight years later the duo yet again crossed swords in the South Asian Games on 26thDecember 1993 which were again held at the Banglabandhu Stadium in Dhaka (Bangladesh).But this time the occasion was a lot bigger as India and Nepal were fighting for a Gold Medalin Football at the South Asian Games.
Having lost all the previous three encounters to India,Nepal were determined to set the record straight this time out and had an added motivationapart from the stage of the competition. Matching India toe to toe, Nepal forced the gameinto the lottery of a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw where the Nepalese held their nerves torecord a 4-3 success from the spot.
It was another landmark game in the history of the India-Nepal rivalry as Nepal recorded their first win against India and stopped them from baggingyet another gold medal at the games. Nepal truly announced themselves on the footballingstage and India knew their neighbors were not to be taken lightly.
#3 India 0-3 Nepal - AFC Challenge Cup 2006
In another contest between the two sides in Bangladesh, that time held at the MZ AzizStadium in Chittagong. The AFC Challenge Cup was a big opportunity for these developingfootball sides to test themselves and earn a place in the AFC Asian Championships. Havingwon their group, India came in against the quarter-final encounter held on 11th April 2006against Nepal hot favorites, having beaten them four times in their previous five games.
Butwhat happened on the day shocked the Asian football fraternity as Nepal thrashed India 3-0to knock them out of the competition. An early blitz from Nepal saw Pradeep Maharjan graba quick-fire brace as Nepal went 2-0 up inside the first twenty-five minutesbefore BasantaThapa added a third in the 27th minute to leave India deflated.
India never recovered from theearly blow as they bowed out of the competition. Nepal later fell at the semi-final stage at thehands of Sri Lanka on penalties, but their mauling of India remained a highlight in theirhistory.
#4 Nepal 0-4 India - 2008 SAFF Championship
Hurting from a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Nepal just less than two years ago, India came up against their rivals again in the 2008 South Asian Football Federation Championship held inMaldives on 3rd June 2008. Touted as the revenge game for India, things went the way for theIndians right from the first whistle.
After a bright start to the game, the Indians finally brokehe deadlock in the 26th minute through N.P Pradeep, before Baichung Bhutia doubled Indiaslead eight minutes later as India went into half-time leading 2-0 and sitting firmly in thedrivers seat. Little changed in the second half as India continued their dominance over thegame.
Sunil Chhetri popped up for the Indian on 67 minutes before S.K Singh completed a 4-0 rout with his strike in the 83rd minute of the game. India well and truly avenged its loss ofthe AFC Challenge Cup, but lost out on the title after conceding a late goal against Maldivesin the final.
#5 India 2-0 Nepal - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying
The most recent encounter between the two teams on Indian soil saw India take on Nepal inthe first of the two-legged 2018 World Cup pre-qualifying game on 12th March 2015. Havingfallen at a similar stage last time out India were determined clear the hurdle this time out.
Backunder Stephen Constantines tutelage, the game provided the first real challenge for theIndians. With a return leg in Nepal to follow, India had their work cut out in their home leg atGuwahati. After a tight first half, India came into its own in the second when captain SunilChhetri gave India the lead in the 53rd minute.
Indias captain marvelous found the net againeighteen minutes later as India doubled their advantage. India took the 2-0 lead to Nepal andheld them to a 0-0 draw in Kathmandu to progress to the next stage of the FIF World Cupand Asian Games qualifying. It was the first game post the euphoric ISL and it enjoyed agreat following in India.