Nepal will be facing reigning champions and hosts Maldives in the first match of SAFF Championship 2021.
The regional tournament will have five teams competing for the title. Nepal and Maldives will meet for the first time in 2018 after the last SAAF semi-final in Bangladesh. At that time, Nepal had lost 3-0 to Maldives in the semifinals.
Nepal will play its second match against Sri Lanka on September 3 in the championship to be held in Male. Similarly, Nepal will face the most successful team of the tournament India on September 8. Nepal will end the league round facing Bangladesh on September 11.
The top two teams of the round-robin league will play the final for the title on September 13. Nepal has not been able to cross the semi-final of SAAF yet.
Meanwhile, the Nepali team is training in Pokhara in preparation for the SAAF Championship. Coach Abdullah Almutairi had selected 28 players from the team preparing for the SAAF Championship in the third round on Monday. Ten players were dropped from the 38-member squad announced for the Pokhara tour on Monday.
Experienced forward Bharat Khawas, midfielder Bikram Lama and defender Ranjit Dhimal have been cut out of the squad. Similarly, forwards George Prince Karki, Rajiv Lopchan, Sanjok Rai, Tridev Gurung, Sesehang Aangdembe, Randip Poudel and Bishal Sunar have also been dropped from the squad.
Nepal is playing two friendly matches with India to prepare for the championship. The match will be played at Dasharath Stadium on September 3 and 5. The Nepali team is currently in Pokhara for a two-week training camp. Arpan Karki, Shishir Lekhi and Rajan Gurung are trying to make a place in the senior team for the first time. Along with these three, goalkeepers Bishal Shrestha, Deep Karki and Arpan Karki have not made their debut from the national team. All the other players have the experience of a senior team.
Current 28 men squad :
Kiran Kumar Limbu (GK), Bishal Shrestha (GK), Deep Karki (GK), Bikesh Kuthu (GK), Arpan Karki (GK), Suman Aryal, Dinesh Rajbanshi, Gautam Shrestha, Ananta Tamang, Rohit Chand, Suraj Jeu Thakuri, Suman Lama, Kamal Thapa Magar, Nitin Thapa, Tej Tamang, Rajan Gurung, Pujan Uperkoti, Bishal Rai, Santosh Tamang, Sujal Shrestha, Sunil Bal, Manish Dangi, Anjan Bista, Ayush Ghalan, Nawayug Shrestha, Aashish Lama, Abhishek Rijal, Shisir Lekhi.