Wednesday, February 28

Annese’s Nepal Challenge Myanmar With Forced Changes & Youthful Squad

  • Sandesh Sigdel

Vincenzo Alberto Annese’s tenure as the head coach of the Nepal National Team has been marked by challenges from the very beginning. When he took the helm, he had a limited timeframe to assemble his squad for the Prime Minister Three Nations Cup in Kathmandu in March.

This presented a daunting task, especially given the backdrop of the ongoing A Division League in Nepal, which was experiencing a noticeable decline in quality. The departure of several key players to Australia, many of whom were regulars in the national team, further complicated the situation. Annese found himself with less than ten days to finalize his squad, and the league’s scheduling issues had also led to injuries among potential players, leaving him with a shortage of quality options.

Despite these obstacles, Annese led the team to victory in Kathmandu, although not without some tense moments. Nepal even recorded its first-ever draw against Bhutan during the tournament, a sign that the team was facing challenges.

While the title remained in Kathmandu, fans had to accept that the national team’s level they took pride in had deteriorated, and significant repairs were needed. Annese, from the day he was unveiled as the coach, emphasized the need for a broader footballing pool. Still, he also possessed a passionate desire to succeed with the team, not only for the team’s betterment but also for his own young managerial career.

The SAFF Championship was a significant event in Nepali football, but the team’s performance was a far cry from its past glory. Nepal was eliminated from the group stages of the tournament it had previously reached the final of. However, there was a glimmer of hope for the fans in the spirited performance against India and a win against the diasporic Pakistan team. Annese expressed his desire to extend his initial one-year contract, indicating his commitment to the long-term development of Nepali football.

The upcoming friendlies against Myanmar mark the first matches the team will play since the disappointment in Bangalore. However, Annese’s selection options have been limited due to various reasons. Three members of his SAFF squad have already made their journey to Australia, including rising forward Dipak Raj Singh Thakuri, midfielder Pujan Uperkoti, and defender Nishant Khadka. Star forward Bimal Gharti Magar and experienced campaigner Devendra Tamang were kept back home for personal reasons, with Bimal requesting time off due to his recent marriage. Devendra, unfortunately, didn’t show up for the closed camp.

In addition to these absentees, Annese has made further changes to his squad, including the exclusion of experienced goalkeeper Bishal Shrestha in favor of Abishek Baral. Bimal Panday and right back Simanta Thapa, both members of the SAFF squad, have been left out. Furthermore, APF midfield duo Nabin Lama and Mani Kumar Lama are absent from the 23-man squad, with Mani busy preparing for the AFC Futsal Asian Cup Qualifiers with the Nepal Futsal Team.

Annese’s decision to call up seven new faces for the Myanmar assignment demonstrates his intention to test the waters and prepare a fresh team moving forward. It’s evident that some of the squad’s inclusions and exclusions have been influenced by circumstances beyond Annese’s control, emphasizing the ongoing challenges he faces in reshaping the Nepal National Team.

Annese’s approach to the Nepal National Team’s transformation involves not only addressing the immediate challenges but also planning for a more sustainable future. His decision to include seven new faces in the squad for the Myanmar friendlies highlights his willingness, although forcibly, to trust in emerging talent. These young players bring fresh energy and enthusiasm to the team, which can be invaluable in the long run.

One of the notable aspects of Annese’s tenure is his emphasis on diligent work on implementing tactical changes and instilling a sense of discipline and teamwork among the players. Annese’s tactical acumen, honed through his experiences, although shortly in Indian football and elsewhere, is gradually making its mark on the Nepali side.

As Nepal prepares for the crucial FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Laos, Annese faces the dual challenge of integrating new talents into the squad and finding the right balance between youth and experience. His next stage with Nepal begins today afternoon against 160th-ranked Myanmar.

Although the focus lies on Laos next month, Annese would like to keep the spirits high with positive results with this young squad in Yangon.

Nepal squad for Myanmar friendlies:

Goalkeepers: Kiran Kumar Limbu, Deep Karki, Abhishek Baral Defenders: Sanish Shrestha, Ananta Tamang, Ashish Gurung, Rohit Chand, Anjan Rai, Chhiring Lama Midfielders: Arik Bista, Sudip Gurung, Laken Limbu, Awas Lamichhane, Utsab Rai, Kritish Ratna Chhunju Forwards: Ayush Ghalan, Nawayug Shrestha, Anjan Bista, Manish Dangi, Aashish Chaudhary, Gillespye Jung Karki, Dinesh Henjan, Hisubh Thapaliya

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