Nepalese fans have reacted with a mix of excitement and trepidation to the draw for the first round of FIFA World Cup qualifying that has seen their side drawn with rivals and neighbours India.
The rivalry between the two nations is fierce, on and off the pitch, and the Nepalese would love nothing more than to knock out their more fancied opponents.
“The reaction has been mixed,” Bikram Thapa, editor-in-chief of the popular GoalNepal.com website, told Football Channel Asia.
“The rivalry is huge. I don’t want to comment on (the) political parts but in football, the Nepalese team always want to beat India. People are so excited to see the matches.
“Some fans think we can’t meet the standard of Indian football and some seriously think we can beat India. Playing at home (in Kathmandu) is always tough for visitors.”
The South Asian side made it through to the second round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup after beating Timor-Leste 7-1 on aggregate, however their run ended there after they were thumped 10-1 by Jordan, missing the chance to enter the group stage.
They can take some comfort, however, from the fact they held Jordan to a 1-1 draw in the second leg in Kathmandu.
In their last match against India, a friendly in the city of Siliguri near the border with Nepal in November 2013, the Nepalese lost 2-0. However just months earlier in the 2013 SAFF Championships, they recorded an historic win over their rivals.
“Nepal can always give trouble to the Indian team,” Thapa declared.
“It was an under-prepared team who lost to India 2-0 in Siliguri. But it was Nepal who defeated India 2-1 in Kathmandu in the SAFF Championship.
“The Indian team is not unbeatable, (so) the Nepalese players need to deliver their best.”
In a country better known for the spectacular Himalayas, little is known about football in the country, but as Bikram explains the locals are mad about their football.
“Nepalese football lovers are crazy about the game,” he said. “They passionately follow Nepalese football. It means a lot to the people here.
“The problems are poor infrastructure and (a lack of) good governance from ANFA,” he explained.
“There is no proper league structure, and clubs are too weak to invest money into the club. (A) lack of enough sponsors, (and a) lack of qualified technical people are some points that Nepalese football need to address.”
What Nepal lack in facilities and structure they make up for with pride and passion, and nothing would make them more proud than ending the hopes and dreams of their fierce rivals.