The Blue Tigresses have won in two of their three meetings with the West Asians.

India are poised to start their AFC Women’s Asia Cup 2022 campaign on Thursday, January 20th, when they will take on the Iran national team, who are also the lowest-ranked team in their group. Playing on their home turf, the Blue Tigresses will be inspired to put up a strong fight in the Asia Cup.

Thomas Dennerby’s side might be going in as underdogs, but have enough quality to be a real surprise package in the tournament. India knows that they need a win against to boost their chances of making it out of a difficult Group A. Despite their rank, Team Melli Baanovaan are no pushovers. They’re guaranteed to put up a strong fight against the hosts.

This opening encounter for India should be a feisty game filled with interesting battles on the pitch. Let’s look at a few key battles to watch out for.

3. Indumathi Kathiresan vs Sara Zohrabinia

Indhumathi Kathiresan is guaranteed to be a focal point in India’s midfield in the competition, knowing her creative and driven nature. However, the 27-year-old faces a challenging battle in the middle in the Iran clash. She’ll face Iran’s Sara Zohrabinia, an influential, creative piece of the team.

Zohrabinia’s impressive passing ability, tendency to sneak into goal-scoring areas and hard-working demeanor make her a tough nut to crack. Indhumathi not only has to look to create chances for her India teammates, but also be an alert figure to keep Iran and Zohrabinia quiet. With both midfielders being pivotal, creative factors of the team, this clash could potentially decide the result.

2. Negin Zandi vs Ashalata Devi

Ashalata Devi
The experienced Ashalata Devi is the most-capped player in the Blue Tigresses’ squad

Iran’s 17-year-old striker Negin Zandi can be their ‘surprise factor’ in the AFC Women’s Asia Cup. She’s already made 4 appearances for her senior national team so far and is expected to play a key role in the competition. The exciting young centre-forward is guaranteed to trouble India, with her fast movement, trickery and smart finishing skills making her a big threat.

However, she’ll face off against India captain Ashalata Devi. Ashalata is the most-capped player in the squad and also the most experienced. The gritty defender has to be at her sharpest to frustrate the youngster and not allow her any room at the back. With Iran’s adventurous teenager taking on India’s leader, this should be a feisty battle to witness.

1. Manisha Kalyan vs Behnaz Taherkhani

A lot of hopes will be pinned on the shoulders of young starlet Manisha Kalyan in the AFC Women’s Asia Cup. After scoring against Brazil in November, she will be bouncing on confidence. The Gokulam Kerala star has become a vital part of the national team, having scored 5 goals in 11 appearances already. However, the Indian forward faces a daunting task against Iran captain Behnaz Taherkhani.

The 26-year-old defender is a tough-as-nails character who knows how to maintain a sturdy defensive line. She’s quick to react to situations and has enough pace to keep up with fast forwards. Manisha has to make great use of her dribbling ability and electric movement to trouble the Iran captain. She also has to be prolific in the final third in finishing off chances and helping India get an important win to start of the campaign.

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