The Indian football team will lock horns with Nepal in their second Group B fixture of the SAFF Championship 2023 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Saturday in what will be a rematch of the final of the previous edition.

Nepal went down 1-3 to Kuwait in the SAFF Championship 2023 opener, India scripted a resounding victory against Pakistan in their opening game of the tournament.

While the Blue Tigers boast a dominant head-to-head record against their opponents, they have found it difficult to beat Nepal in their past few meetings over the years. In two-time Hero I-League winner with Gokulam Kerala FC and former NorthEast United FC head coach Vincenzo Annese, Nepal also have a new boss at the helm apart from a squad consisting of several young and talented players, making them a tricky proposition for India.


The All Nepal Football Association was established in 1950 but only became affiliated with FIFA in 1972. Two years later in 1974, they became part of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). They have not enjoyed much success on the international stage so far and are yet to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup.

It wasn’t until 2016 that they won their first Asian title, which was the AFC Solidarity Cup. Besides that, Nepal have participated in 13 editions of the SAFF Championships and three editions of the AFC Challenge Cup, but have never won any of those.

A runners-up finish during the 2021 edition of the SAFF Championship has been their best result in the tournament till date. As of now, Nepal are placed 174 in the FIFA rankings and have put up some promising results in recent times.

Form Guide

Since their SAFF Championship final defeat to India in 2021, Nepal have been in action in the third round of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers and the Three Nations Cup apart from a few friendlies. They also have brought a new head coach on board with Annese taking charge after predecessor Abdullah Al-Mutairi stepped down from his post in August 2022.

Under Al-Mutairi, Nepal failed to secure qualification for the AFC Asian Cup 2023 in Qatar after they finished bottom of their group comprising Kuwait, Indonesia and Jordan.

With Annese taking over as the head coach in March, Nepal have played four games this year prior to the SAFF Championship 2023. They won two of those while drawing and lose one game each. Annese’s side emerged winners in the Three Nations Cup which had participating teams like Laos and Bhutan, ending the tournament unbeaten. Later in June, they suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat to Philippines in a friendly.

Head-to-Head record

India enjoy a dominant record against their opponents from the South Asian regions with these two sides clashing on 23 occasions so far. The Blue Tigers have emerged winners in 16 of these games. Nepal, on the other hand, have recorded only two victories while five games have ended in a draw.

The two sides last faced each other in the SAFF Championship 2021 final with India recording a comfortable 3-0 win. Before emerging winners in the final, Stimac side’s had also registered a hard-fought 1-0 win against the hosts in the group stage.

Key players

Anjan Bista

Bista is by far Nepal’s most threatening player and his versatility is a big asset, with the 25-year-old capable of playing anywhere across the forward line. Bista was recently part of Kenkre FC, representing the Mumbai-based side in the Hero I-League 2022-23 season.

Bista has received 52 national caps and has netted 11 goals so far. His latest goal came against Kuwait despite Nepal suffering a defeat in their SAFF Championship 2023 opener. As things stand, Bista is just three goals away from becoming Nepal’s all-time top international goalscorer.

Kiran Limbu

One of the senior players in the squad, captain Limbu is no stranger to Indian football having plied his trade in the Hero I-League for the past few years. He also has two I-League titles to his name, having won silverware with Minerva Punjab FC during the 2017-18 season and recently with RoundGlass Punjab FC in the 2022-23 season.

The 33-year-old, who has the second-highest appearances for Nepal at the international stage, was one of the key players for his side in the previous edition of the SAFF Championship, helping the Gorkhalis reach the final. Limbu’s experience between the sticks will be vital as Nepal look to go one step further from the 2021 edition.

Ananta Tamang

A centre-back by trade, Tamang has been capped 47 times at the international level and is among the experienced players in the squad. Tamang was even part of East Bengal FC’s squad in the latter stages of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 season.

Tamang played every minute of Nepal’s matches in the previous edition of the SAFF Championship and was an influential figure in defence. His latest goal for the national team came earlier in March, scoring a header during his side’s 2-0 win over Laos.

Match Details

Fixture: Nepal vs India

Date: June 24, 2023

Time: 7.30 PM

Venue: Sree Kanteerava Stadium

Telecast: DD Sports & Fancode