Ambrose spoke at length about the preparation, the platform of the AFC Qualifiers, the strength of the squad and much more.

It’s India versus Pakistan again — this time in the AFC U-19 Women’s Qualifiers in Chonburi, Thailand. The kick-off on October 24 (Wednesday) is slated for IST 2.30pm.

Even as the injury of forward Asha Kumari came as a setback for the team, India U-19 Head Coach Alex Ambrose is in no mood to sit back and mourn over it. Rather, he has set his eye to concentrate on the rest of the squad for “best results possible.”

EXCERPTS:

We are playing Pakistan in the first match. Your thoughts.

I don’t want to go into the emotions of playing a big rival. It may only make us lose focus on what our real objective is. All we want from our first game is three points. There is no special treatment as such for Pakistan. I want the girls to play to our plan and execute the ideas properly on the pitch, regardless of who we are playing.

What are your expectations?

I would be great if we can qualify (chuckles). I am aware that have a good chance of making it to the next round. But we have to build on all the hard work that we have put in so far to achieve the desired results. It all depends on how we react on the match day. Most important of all, we need to stay in the right frame of mind.

How big is this platform for the young girls?

This is a platform for the players to develop themselves. That is the most important thing when it comes to any tournament at the junior level. We have had a good outing at the SAFF Championships in Bhutan and a couple of fruitful training camps as well. Hopefully we can take forward all the learnings from these experiences and use them to qualify for the next round.

How much did the SAFF U-18 Women’s Championship help the girls gel together ahead of the big AFC qualifiers?

The SAFF Championships were a good opportunity for the girls to get a grip on what to expect from each other. It always takes some time for the players to get to know each other’s games, so that helped us a lot in that regard.

We got four games from that tournament, and mind you, these were all competitive international games. So they are bound to rub off on the girls, and give them some experience. The game against Nepal (Nepal won on penalties after a 1-1 draw) was especially a tough one. I’m sure they have learnt a lot from it.


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You have now had two training camps with this squad.

Rome was not built in a day. These girls are very young, and they are constantly learning new things every day. I have not tried to alter much as I came in just about a month before the schedule. With that much time it’s better not to change things but rather improve on the system that is already in place.

Obviously, these girls will get better with time. They need to get as many games under their caps as possible. However, they are quite adept, both tactically and technically at the moment.

Pakistan head coach Mohammed Siddique Sheikh lauded the India U-19 women’s team ahead of the crucial AFC U-19 Women’s Championship Qualifier opening match between the two arch-rivals.

Although both the teams had played in the SAFF U-18 Women’s Champion, they did not face each other in Bhutan earlier this month. While India topped their group and went on to clinch the bronze medal, Pakistan finished rock-bottom of their group, losing all their matches.

On the eve of the high-intensity fixture between the two rivals, Sheikh opined that though India and the other two sides provide them with a stiff challenge, the qualifiers will serve to give his players good exposure.

“These qualifiers are going to give our girls good exposure. I’ve seen the Indian team, and they play really good football,” said Sheikh. “Thailand and Nepal are also quite good, so we have to bring our best cards to the table. We are playing here for the first time, so things are going to be new for us. Let’s hope for the best.”

Sheikh further went on to concede that his team are at a bit of a disadvantage due to the weather conditions in Chonburi, where sporadic rains are expected throughout the week.

“We have not been able to prepare for the conditions here as much as we would have liked. It rains quite often here, and that is not something that we are very used to,” he said. “Rains change the game, but we will try to cope with it.”

On the flip side, India gaffer Alex Ambrose stressed on the importance of his team playing their own game, regardless of who the opposition is.

“I’ve seen all the teams before coming here, and they all play some really good football. But we are prepared to play our own game,” said Ambrose. “It all depends on how things go on the matchday. Depending on that, we can take things forward.”

Group B of the first round of the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship qualifiers are set to be kicked-off by India and Pakistan at 4 pm local time (2.30 pm IST), followed by the match between Thailand and Nepal at 7.30 pm local time (6 pm IST). The matches will be streamed live on Mycujoo.

INDIA’S U-19 women FIXTURES:

October 24: India vs Pakistan.

October 26: India vs Nepal.

October 28: India vs Thailand.