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SAFF U-16 Championship

SAFF U-16 Women's Championship: India eye turnaround against Nepal

Published at :March 6, 2024 at 1:53 PM
Modified at :March 6, 2024 at 1:53 PM
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(Courtesy : AIFF Media)

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This will be India’s last chance to make it to the SAFF U-16 Women’s Championship final.

After a disappointing 1-3 loss to Bangladesh on Tuesday, India will look to bounce back and book their SAFF U-16 Women’s Championship final berth when they take on hosts Nepal on Thursday, March 7, 2024, at the ANFA Complex in Lalitpur at 14:45 IST. The match will be streamed live on the Sportzworkz YouTube Channel.

India suffered an early setback after Alpi Akter’s ninth-minute strike put Bangladesh ahead, but despite Anushka Kumari’s fourth goal of the tournament bringing the Young Tigresses level in the second half, they conceded two more in the later stages for their first defeat in the competition.

“The players are obviously upset after the loss,” said head coach Biby Thomas. “The team were confident before yesterday’s game, but a small mistake allowed Bangladesh to take an early lead and the girls panicked a bit. We still had more than 80 minutes to try and get back in the game. It took time to get into our rhythm after the early setback, and we did score the equaliser in the second half, but we conceded again after another defensive lapse.”

The Young Tigresses were left chasing for the majority of the game and did not play to their full potential. Thomas believes his girls can perform much better than yesterday’s showing.

“We created much more attacking chances than Bangladesh, and we should’ve converted more than just one. We were good in terms of position, but the communication was lacking.

“In these situations, experience does matter a lot. It’s the first time these girls are playing in such an atmosphere. There’s a difference between the training pitch and international matches.”

Now, it’s back to the drawing board for India. With only a 48-hour rest between the two matches, the girls need to reset, rework and go again quickly. Nepal lost their opening match 0-2 to Bangladesh before beating Bhutan 3-0. Puja Giri, Bhumika Budathoki and Gyanshu Dolmalo scored for the hosts in the opening half-hour.

Since India have a better goal difference than Nepal, a point will be enough for the Young Tigresses to progress to the final and set up a rematch with Bangladesh. However, the approach is always to win, affirmed Thomas. The girls arrived in Nepal with the mentality to go for three points in all games, and despite things not going according to plan yesterday, they will not let the loss affect them psychologically and are eager to right the wrongs.

“Tomorrow will be a different game,” said Thomas. “We will be going against the home crowd. Nepal will also be confident after their last win. Despite losing the first match against Bangladesh, they showed good fighting spirit. We need to handle the pressure and learn from our mistakes if we want to think about winning the trophy. This is our only chance to make the final.”

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