Dhaka (Bangladesh), Feb 7: The India U19 Women's National Team will be out to break a voodoo on the artificial turf of BSSSMK Stadium on Thursday when they meet hosts Bangladesh in the SAFF U19 Women’s Championship 2024 final.
Despite marked improvement in women’s football, India somehow hold a dismal record in this age group in SAFF. The title has eluded India on more than one occasion, the latest example being the SAFF U20 Women’s Championship in Dhaka last year, when Bangladesh pipped India to win the trophy.
Thursday’s final will definitely be a huge opportunity for India to put past records on the burner and retain the title. The Young Tigresses will certainly enter the final match with a strong determination to seize the championship title and set the records straight from the Indian perspective.
In the group stage, India won comfortably against Bhutan (10-0) and Nepal (4-0) but lost against Bangladesh by a solitary goal to enter the final as the second-place finishers in the group. Apart from having a tight defence and a balanced midfield, India enjoy good attacking qualities with forwards Pooja and Sulanjana Raul and wingers Neha and Sibani Devi putting up a commendable show.
Well, despite all the positive signs, it will definitely not be easy to topple the hosts, who beat India in the group league earlier this week. No one knows it better than India’s head coach, Sukla Dutta.
“I'm truly not pleased that India have been losing to Bangladesh for the past three years, but tomorrow will be the time to change that. I am sure both teams will put in equal efforts, but the team who score first will likely emerge champion, as the confidence to score more will start from there,” she said ahead of the Bangladesh clash.
“I understand there will be huge support for Bangladesh, but we'll only concentrate on our own game,” she added.
Having already played against Bangladesh in the group stage, head coach Sukla knows how to handle the situation and said, “We've played one match against the hosts in this tournament, so we know exactly how they play. But there's no doubt they're a good side. I have instructed my players to stay focused on their positions and prioritise man-marking. It's crucial to cover the midfield more effectively because if we disrupt their ball distribution in that area, we can perform even better.
“I hope my girls deliver the same strong performance they displayed in their last game against Bangladesh two days ago,” she said.
In the team meeting today, captain Nitu Linda shared her thoughts on the final with all the players and the coaching staff and said, “We're up against Bangladesh once again. It offers us the chance to rectify our mistakes from the previous match. I am confident in clinching the trophy. Everyone else here should be thinking in the same manner.”
Nitu told her teammates: “We won't allow them to exploit our weaknesses. Instead, we will focus on correcting our errors, especially our communication on the pitch and we should stick to our game plan. Tomorrow's match is extremely crucial for us.
“In the final, our aim should be to control the midfield, minimise mistakes, and execute through passes effectively. If I can deliver on these aspects and contribute with goals, I believe we can win.” (IANS)