The Blue Tigresses have faced their opponents thrice in the past, winning two of those encounters.

The Indian women’s football team will begin their AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2022 campaign against Iran at the DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai on Wednesday, 20th January. The other Group A match, to be played between China and Chinese Taipei, will be played at the Mumbai Football Arena earlier the same day. The Islamic Republic is making its debut at the continental stage, having played its first international match in 2005.

The game will begin at 7:30 PM IST and both teams will look to gain a lot of early momentum. The other two teams in the group have both won the tournament in the past, China leading the table with eight trophies and Chinese Taipei thrice. India, on the other hand, have been finalists twice, in 1979 and 1983.

Let’s delve into the preview.

Head-to-Head

India and Iran have faced each other three times in the past, with no results ending in a stalemate. The Blue Tigresses have been the dominating side, with two wins. The two teams first met during the Asian Cup Qualifiers in 2008, India winning at home 3-1 and Iran winning the return leg 4-1. When they met again in the Women’s Gold Cup hosted by India in 2019, the home side took all points, winning 1-0 courtesy an Anju Tamang goal in the 48th minute.

Both teams have scored five goals each against the other and India will begin the game as favourites. The hosts are currently ranked 55th, while Iran remain on 70th.

Formations

India

India lineup Women's Asian Cup
India are expected to lineup in a 4-4-2 formation against Iran

Both teams will aim to start on the front foot and get the first goal as it is often said in football, the first goal will help a lot in settling nerves and add a lot of confidence going forward in this tournament. India will hope Manisha Kalyan, Anju Tamang, Ratanbala Devi, Dangmei Grace or Pyari Xaxa open the scoring. Anju and Ratanbala will look to add pace and creativity, feeding off the midfield and strikers from wide areas.

In the middle of the park, Indumathi Kathiresan will be the screen sitting just ahead of India’s defence, helped by Kamala Devi, who will act as the midfield link. At the back, Dalima Chhibber and Sanju Yadav will be expected to burn the grass on the right and left side of the pitch respectively, with Sweety Devi and captain Ashalata Devi adding solidity centrally.

Ashalata will also be expected to find wingers in space and that odd long ball, given her ball playing ability. Senior custodian Aditi Chauhan will be organizing her team well from under the bar.

Iran

We start from the back for Iran. Regular goalkeeper Zohreh Koudaei will be up against Maryam Yektaei, who plies her trade with Turkish club Besiktas. Koudaei, however, can be expected to be given the nod, after her heroics in the penalty shootout against Jordan that booked Iran’s ticket to India. Centrally, it will be down to Melika Motevallitaher and Behnaz Taherkhani to keep things tight.

Accompanying them defensively will be Melika Mohammadi on the right and Ghazaleh Banitalebi on the left. Zahra Alishah is expected to play in a more defensive role in central midfield in a double pivot with Sara Zohrabinia, who will be expected to create and contribute to link-up play. On the right wing will be Samaneh Chahkandi, one of Iran’s most speedy and skilled players. Flanking the other side would be Sara Ghomimarzdashti, another able dribbler.  

Zohrabinia, Samaneh and Sana will all look to play support cast to strikers Negin Zandi and Hajar Ashrafi Varnosfaderani. With this pair, Iran will have loads of creativity and speed up top. Given the creative abilities of Hajar Ashrafi, she can also be expected to play just off Hajar and allow the youngster to run at defences with her pace.

Coaches’ Corner

Thomas Dennerby (coach – India)

Thomas Dennerby
Dennerby was previously the assistant of former India head coach Maymol Rocky

“The Iran game is going to be tough. We know that they are fighters with a strong defence, playing a low block which will be a challenge for us to score. But, I am confident we will be able to create chances. We need to perform well to win.”

Maryam Iraandoost (coach – Iran)

“Despite our lack of experience, the team is motivated and works hard. We have reached this level and we are ready. We have analyzed the Indian team and are aware that they are strong and fast. The opener is one for everyone to look forward to.”

Probable Lineups

India

Aditi (GK); Dalima, Ashalata (C), Sweety, Sanju; Ratanbala, Indumathi, Kamala, Anju; Pyari, Manisha

Iran

Zohreh (GK); Mohammadi, Behnaz (C), Motevallitaher, Ghazaleh; Samaneh, Zohrabinia, Zahra, Sara; Hajar, Negin

Woman to watch out for

Kamala Devi (India)

Yumnam Kamala Devi
Yumnam Kamala Devi is returning to the Blue Tigresses’ fold after a long break (Courtesy- AIFF Media)

With her vast experience over the years, Kamala is probably the lynchpin that India need to unlock the Iran defence. Equally adept at creating and scoring goals, Kamala will be expected to control the midfield in sync with Indumathi. She has consistently been one of the top scorers and assist-providers in the national championships and the Indian Women’s League and will look to continue in the same vein.

Sara Ghomimarzdashti (Iran)

One of the most prolific goalscorers in the continent, Sara has been the top scorer at the Kowsar Women Football League for four years in a row from 2012-2016. She has already scored 238 goals in her distinguished career and will be a handful for Dalima and Ratanbala to contain. She also has enough ammunition in her arsenal to setup goals and India will need to keep her silent to nullify Iran’s attacking prowess.

Telecast

The Women’s Asian Cup 2022 Group A match between India and Iran is set to be played at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Thursday. Kick-off will happen at 7:30 PM IST. The match will be telecast live on Eurosport and Jio TV. For more updates, follow Khel Now on Twitter, Instagram and join our community on Telegram.

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