Kathmandu, Sep 4 (IANS) A loss will not be an option for defending champions India when they take on hosts Nepal here Thursday in their final group stage match, which will determine the semi-finals line-up for the ongoing SAFF Championship.
A win or a draw for the five-time champions will cement a place in the semis but if they falter and Bangladesh beat Pakistan, the goal difference will come into play.
At present India are on 4 points (+1 goal difference) while Nepal are also on 4 points (+2). The other two teams, Pakistan (-1) and Bangladesh (-2) are on one point each.
If India lose and Pakistan beat Bangladesh, India will still go through on head-to-head equation.
But it won't be as straightforward as that Thursday against a speedy Nepal team. The Indians have looked short on ideas upfront and although Wim Koevermans has done his best to instill the tiki-taka style, the low technical ability of the team has been on show.
India just about scraped through against Pakistan 1-0, thanks to an own goal from a Pakistani player and against Bangladesh it took an injury-time goal from captain Sunil Chhetri to bail out the team after they were trailing 0-1.
A scrappy win and a last minute draw would have been the last thing the Indians would have wanted in a tournament which they have dominated.
A sterner test awaits next as Nepal will be no pushovers and backed by a boisterous home crowd can only spell trouble for the Indians.
It's not like India has not created chances but they have been very wasteful in front of the goal.
"A footballer's life is all about those 90 minutes. But every team needs a bit of luck. We have been so distinctly unlucky in the last two matches. We should have scored at least 10 goals by now. But that's football," said midfielder Mehtab Hossain.
The kick-off at the Dasrath Stadium Sep 5 (Thursday) is at IST 3.15 p.m.