SAFF U-19 Women's Championship: India look to comeback against Nepal in must-win tie
(Courtesy : AIFF Media)
Both India and Nepal are on three points in the SAFF U-19 Women’s Championship.
In a football match, certainty remains vague until the final whistle, a truth vividly proved in Sunday’s clash against Bangladesh. India, in a twist of fate, conceded a late injury-time goal, departing the field empty handed.
Despite the Young Tigresses delivering a strong performance against the hosts, the match appeared destined for a draw. However, fate had other plans, and in the closing moments, Bangladesh emerged successful once again over India. After the match, tears filled the eyes of the Indian girls, exposing the strong emotions evoked by the result.
“We entered the match with confidence, expecting a victory, but a minor error cost us the game. Despite a number of attempts on goal, our own mistakes stopped us from capitalising on those opportunities. While our defence was solid, our focus remained on attacking,” said Neha.
“Our strategy was to leverage our strengths, but unfortunately, we fell short. Bangladesh proved to be faster, and we knew they had a lot of speed, and regardless of my effort in the first half, my shot from the left turned into a low strike, missing the goal. Although we executed good crosses, they went unconverted,” she said.
The morning after a defeat in a big match is never pleasant, and the girls were disheartened. Despite the let down, they were also mindful of the upcoming test against Nepal tomorrow, Tuesday, February 6, 2024, in Dhaka at the BSSSMK Stadium.
Neha from Haryana found her way into football under the influence of Renu, who also comes from her locality and is a striker in the senior national women’s team. Drawing inspiration from forward Manisha Kalyan, Neha expressed her ambition, saying, “I aspire to challenge Manisha Di someday, who is my idol.”
While believing she has hopes of eventually joining the national team alongside her seniors, Neha remains loyally focused on the upcoming clash against Nepal.
“Nepal are a strong team, playing with unity. We aim to adopt an open style of play to enhance communication on the pitch and apply pressure on our opponents.
“I will strive to provide quality passes to my team for scoring opportunities and, if possible, contribute goals myself. Our intention is to prove that India can also play good football and win against strong teams,” she said.
In the previous SAFF U19 Women’s Championship 2019, India secured a victory over Nepal with a solitary goal before advancing to face Bangladesh in the final. A similar scenario will unfold if India secure either a draw or a win against Nepal tomorrow.
Head coach Sukla Dutta is aware of the situation and said, “My mindset has always been geared towards winning, whether in coaching or in my playing career. Currently, I am not thinking about point calculations or goal differences. I have stressed this to my players as well and told them the importance of focussing on winning tomorrow to secure a spot in the final.”
When asked about yesterday’s performance, the coach said, “Bangladesh showed a never-give-up attitude and resilience, maintaining a compact team structure and adopting a defensive approach. Our unexpected attacking strategy caught them off guard, resulting in our attempts on goal, which unfortunately did now go well as per my plan.”
Coach Sukla also has a fine knowledge of her opponents and their style of play. “Having observed Nepal’s gameplay, I have identified their strengths and weaknesses, and I have formulated a plan accordingly,” she said. “Improving ball positioning and scoring ability is crucial. I did not get the support of a ball holder in yesterday’s match, which I will need tomorrow.
“Nepal tend to play defensively to obstruct the opponents’ goals, and our strategy will involve breaking through their defensive stance and engaging in 1v1 scenarios, and that is exactly what I am going to practice at the training this evening. It will be on my attacking strategies, ball positioning, and how to handle 1v1 situations,” Sukla mentioned.
The match will kick off at 2:30 p.m. IST and will be live-streamed on the Sportzworkz YouTube channel.
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