The Blue Tigresses were held by Iran in their AFC Women’s Asian Cup campaign opener.

24 attempts, nine corners and 65% possession notwithstanding, India failed to breach the Iranian defence at the DY Patil Stadium on Thursday night. The Blue Tigresses attacked incessantly, creating chances one after another, particularly with added venom in the second half. However, nothing could beat the behemoth-like presence of Zohreh Koudaei, who allowed nothing beyond her.

In their next game, India face Chinese Taipei at the same venue on Saturday (January 23). This match will hold significant importance to the Indian plans, as laid out by manager Thomas Dennerby. “Our first target is to get to quarter-finals, we think we have a realistic chance to do that,” the coach had stated before the tournament had started.

Read what Indian coach Thomas Dennerby had to say after India’s game against Iran

The top two teams from each group and two best-placed third teams will make it to the quarters. With China certain to move into the next round, India and Chinese Taipei will look to throw their names in the ring and the head-to-head clash is set to be highly competitive. With context from India’s performance against Iran, let’s take a look at the things India need to change/improve to beat Chinese Taipei.

Central solidity

Anju Tamang
Tamang will have to exert control in the middle of the pitch (Courtesy: AFC Media)

Make no mistake, the Indian women’s football team had a fairly strong outing against Iran centrally. However, Chinese Taipei will be a different breed in itself. The pair of Ratanbala Devi and Anju Tamang will need to be positionally astute, disciplined and think quick on their feet while organizing the central midfield. Ratan, in particular, will face a stiff competition against Lai Li-Chin, one of the chief playmakers for Chinese Taipei.

Li-Chin is equally adept at passing in channels, carrying the ball and taking shots. She will need to be kept at bay, and the Indian No. 7 will need to be pressure-resistant to be able to come out with the bragging rights. She will also need support from Anju, who will need to keep Hsu Yi-Yun in check, a box-to-box midfielder who loves to make troubling runs into the opposition’s half.

Indumathi Kathiresan, too, will need to help her midfield partners to lend solidity.

Win second balls in opposition half

Dalima Chhibber
Chhibber was excellent in the right-back position against Iran (Courtesy: AFC Media)

India had a clear game plan in the first half, a ploy they have used for over an year now. Dalima Chhibber from the right and Ashalata Devi from the left were given licenses to play long ball high up the pitch, but India failed to capitalize on them. In the second half, the number of long balls subsided, as India could play through the tired Iranian midfield.

However, it could be very different against Chinese Taipei, a side fitter and more resilient in nature. India might have to play the long ball tactic, but will need to be on their feet to win the second balls. Given the ball-playing and pressing abilities of their opposition, the Blue Tigresses will not find progressive play as easy as it was against Iran. Thus, winning the second balls will be the key to making it to the opposition box. And then, the Women in Blue will need to improve on their finishing.

Goal-scoring ability

Dangmei Grace
Dangmei had a great opportunity to clinch the winner for India (Courtesy: AFC Media)

Is it too early to say it has been the Achilles Heel of any Indian team at the continental stage in the last few decades? Every Indian fan who followed the game last evening would concur to this. Considering the number and quality of chances India created, it will be an understatement to say India deserved to take home all three points. The best chance of the first half fell to Indu, who blazed over in the 35th minute from 14 yards.

In the 51st minute, Manisha found Pyari just inside the 18-yard-box and the No. 10 failed to connect to the cross better. Later, Dangmei Grace could only hit the crossbar in the 79th minute, failing to put the rebound into the back of the net. These were just the highlights. Indumathi and Manisha had good chances to take shots throughout the game, but they delayed in a bid to look for runners to cross. The team will need to put the ghost of drawing a blank in front of goal behind and will need to improve their goalscoring.

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