Nepal defeated India in tiebreaker to win the first edition of SAFF Under-19 Championship at ANFA Complex grounds, Lalitpur on Saturday.
This is Nepal’s first ever trophy in the age-group tournaments and first by any team in 22 years. Nepal’s national team had won the South Asian Games in 1993.
Hemant Thapa Magar, Sunil Bal, Biswas Shrestha, Anjan Thapa and Ananta Tamang converted their spot kicks after goalkeeper Sojit Gurung saved the first shot by Indian forward Moinuddin to lead Nepal to 5-4 victory in penalty shootout. The regular time had ended in 1-1 draw.
This is a sweet revenge for Nepal against the neighbouring India who had beaten them three times –twice in final and once in semifinal– in Under-16 tournaments.
The government has announced Rs 100,000 each to the team members as cash rewards for winning the regional tournament.
With Tej Tamang making breakthrough in 31st minute, Nepal were leading till 87th minute when India earned a spot kick after defender Dinesh Rajbanshi handled the ball in the penalty box. India’s Shahbaaz cashed in on the opportunity and equalised the scores.
Skipper Bimal Gharti Magari, who is also a regular member of the national team, expressed happiness over the performance by the Under-19 team. “We have created history,” he said.
If the government and ANFA continued supporting the youth team, he added, “Then we can do something in South Asia.”
Nepal had opened the campaign with a 3-1 victory over Bhutan before beating Bangladesh 2-1 in the group stage. The hosts defeated Afghanistan 3-2 in the semi-finals.
India had made it to the final without conceding any goal. India beat Afghanistan 2-0 and edged Maldives 3-0 in group stage before edging past Bangladesh in sudden death to meet Nepal in the final.
Social network sites Twitter and Facebook are inundated with posts on Nepal’s victory.