The Maldives’ national football team’s victory over host nation Nepal in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup prompted a congralutory call from President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan last night.
Coach Istvan Urbanyi’s side’s 1-0 win over an opponent ranked twenty-one places above them in the FIFA world rankings prompted the President to call the team praising their “courageous performance”.
In response to charges that the team had been fortunate to escape with the win, the Hungarian coach said, “I don’t even want to mention luck”.
“This was a very competitive match between two very good sides and we saw a very good game. Both teams worked hard and the crowd, although they were against us, was fantastic” said Urbanyi.
Mohamed Rashid’s second half goal came against the run of play after intense pressure from the home side. Maldives’ goalkeeper Imran Mohammed produced an impressive double save as well as being spared when Nepal struck the crossbar.
Some shaky defending was compensated for by good counter-attacking play, producing the single goal that proved to be the difference between the sides.
In his phone call, President Waheed urged the players to redouble their efforts in the upcoming match with Palestine, ranked fourteen places above the Maldives, on Wednesday March 12.
The victory over Nepal revives hopes of qualification from Group A after the team’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Turkmenistan last week. A win against the Palestinians would see the Maldives qualify for the semi-finals, to be played on March 16.
At the semi-final stage, however, the Maldives would likely be faced with India or North Korea, arguably the two strongest teams in the tournament. The North Koreans qualified for the last FIFA World Cup, putting up a particularly impressive display in a narrow defeat against Brazil. They are also the current holders of the AFC Challenge Cup.
The winners of the tournament automatically qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup to be held in Australia.
Some fans of the Red Snappers celebrated the victory via Twitter. “There is no[thing] better [than] to beat your opponent in their home ground”, said one proud supporter. Another described the victory as “stupendous”.