Nepal fixes semis date with Lebanon

Kathmandu, Feb. 26: Nepal fixed its date with Lebanon in the semi-finals of the WAFF Women’s Championship 2024 after defeating Palestine on Saturday and topping Group B.

After the completion of group-stage matches, the top two teams from two groups advance to the semi-finals. The topper of one group faces the second-positioned team in the opposite group in the semis. 

With Jordan topping Group A and Lebanon in second position, Nepal will play against Lebanon while Palestine, 2nd team of Group B, faces the mighty Jordan. The semi-finals have been scheduled for February 27. Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, will be hosting the semis and the final.

Nepal defeated Syria 4-1 in the group opener. In the second match against Iraq, Sabitra Bhandari ‘Samba’ scored all five goals for the team as Nepal kept a clean sheet. Meanwhile, as Palestine also defeated Iraq and Syria, Nepal and Palestine’s faceoff decided 

the group topper.

Defeating Palestine by four goals, Nepal topped Group B with nine points in three matches. Palestine, in second position, has six points. 

4 goals against Palestine 

Nepal’s goal machine Samba scored two goals in Nepal’s 4-0 win against Palestine. She is currently the highest scorer in the competition with eight goals in three matches. 

Opening the account for the team in the 42nd minute, Samba scored her second and team’s third goal in the 78th minute. Rekha Poudel scored the team’s second goal in the 59th minute.

While the match was coming to an end at a score of 3-0, Nepal was awarded a penalty in the final minutes after Samba was fouled by Palestine’s substitute goalkeeper. Gita Rana hit the penalty and made it 4-0 in 90+6 minutes of the nine-minute additional time.

Palestine played a defensive game and disallowed Nepal to score more goals. Goalkeeper Sharlot Phillips, before getting substituted after an injury in the final quarter of the match, was the busiest player for Palestine. 

Lebanon good opponent

Nepal is facing Lebanon, runners-up of the previous edition of WAFF, who won two matches in the group stage and lost one to Jordan, the defending champion. Jordan, which has won the WAFF Women’s Championship five times in its seven editions, is the biggest contender for the trophy in the 8th edition as well.

However, before facing Jordan, which ranks 74th in FIFA Women’s Team Ranking, 105th-positioned Nepal needs to defeat 134th-positioned Lebanon. Lebanon has been improving its ranking by climbing to 134th from 137th. On the other hand, Nepal dropped to 105th in December 2023 from 101st in August 2023.

However, compared to the recent performances in the group stage, Nepal seems to be in a better form than Lebanon. While Nepal has scored 13 goals and conceded one, Lebanon has scored and conceded seven goals each.  

Speaking at the post-match conference after defeating Palestine, Nepal’s midfield maestro Preeti Rai applauded the team for coordinating and producing quality goals, adding, “This is our third consecutive win and we hope to continue this (winning streak) until the end.”

Praising Lebanon as one of the tough teams in the competition, Sabitra Bhandari, in the post-match conference, said, “After completing a game, we should focus on the next one. We have a good focus on the semi-finals.”

Nepal’s coach Rajendra, who stressed the problem with the wind throughout the group matches as they were played in the open ground of King Abdullah Sports City Reserve Stadium, is likely to be positive for the semi-final match as it will be played inside the 27,000-capacity Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium.

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