It might be that India will have to play Cameroon twice in three days of the Nehru Cup once during their last league fixture on Friday,and possibly once more during the final on Sunday.
It was all the more imperative then,that India went into the double-header in some kind of form. And Tuesdays opponents Nepal,a team that had let in five goals against Cameroon in their last game,were seen as the perfect heavy bag for the hosts to practice their punches on.
Instead,Wim Koevermans side walked off the pitch at full time with the score nil-nil and it was a minor miracle they hadnt conceded a few. The conditions on Tuesday were wet and slushy yet again,but Nepal straightaway looked the team that adapted quicker. With India inexplicably passive,the minnows proceeded to turn the script on its head.
Nepal looked the deal
Midway through the first half,Nepal had already racked up six corners,with only desperate tackles,late blocks and flying saves keeping the side from scoring. At the other end of the pitch,Sunil Chhetri was an isolated figure as India registered just two shots during the entire half,neither troubling custodian Kiran Chemzong. Nepal ended the half with 60 per cent possession and several attempts at goal and twice in two matches,Koevermans was forced to change things around at half time.
Subs fail too
In a way,the substitutions made a difference,but not to the scoreboard. Robin Singh came on for Lenny Rodriguez,and the young striker almost made the change count when the ball found its way to him after a corner. The low volley was struck sweetly,but Chemzong saved with his legs. Jewel Shaikh Raja,another substitute,found himself on the right flank,and after two great touches,each leaving a defender wrong footed,smashed it goalward off the outside of his right foot.
Yet again Chemzong,the man of the match,was equal to the task,finger-tipping it past the post and the match ended scoreless.
If Cameroon beat Maldives on Wednesday,India will make it to the final along with the African nation while any other result will make the outcome of the Cameroon-India league game pivotal.