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SAFF U-16 Championship

SAFF U-16 Women's Championship Final: Unlucky India loose to Bangladesh despite taking early lead

Published at :March 10, 2024 at 7:00 PM
Modified at :March 10, 2024 at 7:00 PM
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Bangladesh goalkeeper Yearzan Begum made three saves to keep the Young Tigresses away from the title.

The Young Tigresses fell short in a nerve-wracking penalty shootout to lose to Bangladesh in the SAFF U-16 Women’s Championship 2024 on March 10, 2024. Having taken an early lead, India controlled a majority of the game but conceded late on to take the game into a shootout, where they came up short.

Bangladesh goalkeeper Yearzan Begum put in an inspired performance during the shootout, as her three saves cost India the title. Despite Surajmuni Kumari pulling off a sharp save in the shootout, and Bangladesh also hitting the post, the Young Tigresses could not convert enough of their own to take the win.

Having suffered a loss to Bangladesh in their early encounter in the tournament, the Young Tigresses were probably keen to exact some form of revenge. The importance of a strong start must have also been emphasised upon them by the coaching staff. They did it to perfection.

In as early as the fourth minute, India took the lead courtesy of some brilliant play from Anushka Kumari. Played through by Bonifilia Shullai’s long through ball, the striker took a touch to go wide of the defenders before unleashing a perfect finish into the far bottom corner to give the Young Tigresses the lead. It was just reward, and even after that, they kept the pressure dialled on for more. 

Bangladesh were starved of possession, and when they had it, they were hurried on the ball, constantly pressured into errors by the Indian girls. Throughout the first half, India did just enough to keep their opponents at bay, while also breaking away on occasion to threaten an addition to the scoreline.

The closest Bangladesh came was right on the edge of halftime, when Munni was called into action from a Fatema Akter corner. The delivery was close to the goal line and the goalkeeper punched it away, taking two chances before getting it clear.

In a much more competitive second half, Bangladesh started exerting more control on the game, but the Young Tigresses weren’t to be bowed. A low block and the constant threat of a counterattack meant the game was played out mostly in midfield, with neither team producing much of note in the final third. 

When Bangladesh’s equaliser came in the 70th minute, it came after a period of pressure, albeit in a most haphazard way. Munni came out to punch a corner clear, only to see the ball bounce off a combination of Shveta Rani and Mariam Binta Hanna to end up in the net. It was disheartening, to say the least.

And yet they did not drop their heads and lose motivation. The equaliser, in fact, galvanised them into action, and in the final minutes of regular time, Anushka and Gurleen Kaur put together a pair of half chances to regain the lead, but to no avail. With seconds left to play, coach Biby Thomas substituted his goalkeeper in anticipation of a shootout.

Surajmuni Kumari did her bit to make a save, while one of Bangladesh’s spot-kicks missed the target, but a fine performance by Begum meant that Bangladesh took home the title.

Despite finishing second best, the Young Tigresses could be proud of their constant gains through the tournament. It was a point highlighted by the individual awards where Anuskha Kumari’s 6 goals saw her end up as the top scorer of the tournament. 

India XI: Munni (Surajmuni Kumari (90+3′), Divyani Linda, Sarangthem Alena Devi, Elizabed Lakra, Rupashree Munda, Thandamoni Baskey, Bonifilia Shullai, Anushka Kumari, Longjam Nira Chanu (Anwita Raghuraman 88′), Shveta Rani, Pearl Fernandes (Gurleen Kaur Sidhu 46′)

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