NEPAL



Nepal's Young Stars Aim To Make An Impact

Nepal will look for its first Suzuki SAFF Suzuki Cup final appearance in Bangladesh later this year. With a third-place finish its best ever performance, the Koji Gyotoku-managed side will hope that it does not fall at the semi-final hurdle for the fourth time in the tournament's history. Nepal's last appearance in the final four was in 2013, when it hosted the competition. After topping its group, the Nepalese squad narrowly lost out to Afghanistan in the semis.

However, Nepal has been a winner of the SAFF Championship at the under-19 level in 2015. A few members of the winning squad have graduated to the senior level now, including the rising star of Nepalese football Bimal Gharti Magar. The 20-year-old striker was the captain of the under-19 SAFF Championship winning team but stories about his talent had spread far and wide before. The former Mohun Bagan player was the youngest Nepalese international at the tender age of 15 and he has gone on to score eight times for the senior side.

Magar's deputy at the under-19 level Ananta Tamang is also a key member of the national side now, and so is midfielder Anjan Bista. They will be ably supported by experienced figures in Rohit Chand and goalkeeper Kiran Chemjong; the latter plies his trade in India with I-League winners Minerva Punjab. But the captaincy of the side rests with the most experienced member, defender Biraj Maharjan who has represented his country 65 times.

Although Nepal has not won a competitive match since November 2016, manager Gyotoku will hope his young side can produce its best form in the tournament. But the two times Bangladesh has hosted the SAFF Suzuki Cup, Nepal has failed to progress past the group stage.

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