SAFF U16 Women's C'ship: India eye berth in final in Bangladesh clash

March 4, 2024
A spot in the final of the SAFF U16 Women's Championship will be on the line when the Indian team takes on Bangladesh in their second match of the tournament

Kathmandu, March 4 (IANS) A spot in the final of the SAFF U16 Women’s Championship will be on the line when the Indian team takes on Bangladesh in their second match of the tournament at the ANFA Complex in Lalitpur, Nepal on Tuesday.

After a thumping 7-0 victory over Bhutan in Friday’s opener, helped by Anushka Kumari’s hat-trick, Pearl Fernandes’ brace, and strikes from Shveta Rani and Anwita Raghuraman, a win against the in-form Bangladesh would see the Young Tigresses book their place in the final with a match to spare. Bangladesh opened their campaign with a 2-0 win over hosts Nepal on Saturday, with Sauravi Akanda Prity netting a first-half brace.

“A hundred percent, we will enter the pitch against Bangladesh with the mentality to win and play pressing football. We don’t want a defensive game. We’ll go all out for the three points,” said head coach Biby Thomas on the eve of the match.

Broadly looking, Bangladesh have had the edge over India in the SAFF women’s youth tournaments from U15 to U20 levels. Out of the total 13 meetings since 2017, Bangladesh have won seven, India have won three, while the other three have been draws.

Having watched Bangladesh’s victory over Nepal two days ago, Thomas shared his opinion on the opponents. “Bangladesh are always a decent team. They have a few experienced players who have played for the U17s. Overall, they looked an organised side in defence, midfield, and attack. We have to be fully concentrated.”

The few experienced names include Arifa Akter, Thuinuye Marma, captain Arpita Biswas, and goalscorer Prity, who played for Bangladesh in the AFC U17 Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers last year. “We had 30-35 attempts in the Bhutan match and scored seven. We’ll probably not get as many chances against Bangladesh, but we need to convert everything we get,” said Thomas.

The tournament was initially planned to take place at the Chyasal Stadium, which has natural grass. However, after an inspection three days before the first match, the pitch was deemed unfit to play and the tournament was shifted to the ANFA Complex with artificial turf. The majority of the Indian players have never played competitively on turf before, but with every training session, they are getting more used to it.

“We’re training pretty well. The only thing we’ve had to adjust here is the artificial turf since we held our entire camp in Goa on natural grass. The players felt a bit of heaviness initially, but now they’ve adapted quickly. Everyone is fit to play,” said Thomas.

–IANS

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