By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax, VA
A brilliant solo run by Belal Arezou who sprinted past three defenders broke the deadlock in the 100th minute of the game to put Afghanistan in their first ever final of the SAFF Championship in New Delhi, India.
A rare defensive error on our part sealed the deal for Afghanistan in a grueling and pulsating 120 minutes of action. The dependable defensive trio of Sandip, Sagar and Rohit were caught flat- footed and lacked the pace to prevent the speedy Afghani from finding the net.
The defeat ended our dream run, and our hope to end a 12 year championship drought is put on hold. My heart goes out to the youngsters. I know how much it hurts to concede a game of this magnitude that we should have won.
Coach Graham Roberts and his boys’ desperateness to thrive was explicable from the onset of the competition. Indisputably , they played robust and attractive football to win the hearts and minds of fans and pundits alike.
As a hard core fan, momentarily, I was distraught and was unable to take the defeat sportingly.
I gathered myself and concluded that we have more positives to take away from this championship. Let me be honest and speak from my heart, the boys performed exceptionally very well and far above my expectations.
This is the first time in a long spell I am impressed with the national squad. I give credit to Coach Roberts’ who took over the national team not long ago. His efforts to reinvent and rejuvenate the team have paid off handsomely.
He along with his coaching staff has been able to blend and mold a bunch of talented youngsters into a dynamic lot. The players have done themselves proud and should feel motivated. This is a new beginning, not the end.
The youngsters put their heart and soul into every match but fell just short of the target. Despite the loss, the players can hang their heads high because they brought their best to the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium.
In my opinion, ultimately the game swung in favor of Afghanistan on their defensive strength and our offensive mediocrity.
The game was evenly fought with both teams squandering a handful of scoring opportunities. The manner the action progressed it was obvious that the team that scored first would win.
For most part of the game we controlled the action and pace of play but nothing productive materialized for us in terms of breakthrough. The Afghani defense stood tall throughout, giving virtually nothing to our feeble offense that ran out of ideas and struggled.
The much -vaunted Afghani attack looked far from menacing but made amends by scoring the winning goal.
Let us put up with our disappointment and seriously prepare ourselves for bigger challenges that await us. The matter of truth is that we can achieve a lot more than what we have, over the years. All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) should take heart from the fantastic result and get into serious business.