Holders India to face Maldives in SAFF Cup opener today
Biratnagar: Heading into the SAFF Women's Championship after playing 11 international matches this year, the Indian team kicks off its title defence...
Biratnagar: Heading into the SAFF Women's Championship after playing 11 international matches this year, the Indian team kicks off its title defence when it takes on Maldives in their opening Group B clash here Wednesday.
"The matches have helped us prepare in the best possible fashion. The exposure tours helped us to improve on our strengths, while at the same time giving us much needed competitive match timing to work on our shortcomings," head coach Maymol Rocky stated.
Since January 2019, the Indians have played friendly matches in Hong Kong and Indonesia, and the Turkish Women's Cup in Turkey, as well as Gold Cup in Bhubaneswar.
The preparatory process had begun in December last year in Cuttack and the team has been together ever since. All the preparation has been planned keeping in mind the AFC Women's Qualifiers Round 2 (in April), as well as the SAFF Championship.
"I am thankful to the All India Football Federation (AIFF), Sports Authority of India (SAI), the Government of Odisha and all other stakeholders involved who have made this possible," Maymol admitted.
"Training and competing together for such an extended period of time will naturally help the team gel as a unit, and also help the players improve their skills at an individual level. We are a young team, and playing so many matches significantly harnesses their true potential," she explained.
Incidentally, the Indian women stay unbeaten in 19 matches in the last 4 editions of SAFF Championship, winning the title on every occasion. The last time the Indian women played Maldives was at the group stage of the 2016 South Asian Games in Shillong where the two sides played a goalless draw.
"I came on as a substitute in that match, and remember we attacked throughout the 90 minutes. But they were very stubborn in their defence," winger Sanju, who was part of that match recollected.
Maymol added: "As a team, we have to make sure that we seize the initiative early in matches. We have worked on keeping our defensive shape, and we will go hard right from the kick-off."
Winger Dangmei Grace echoed her coach's sentiments emphasising on the need to cut down on "silly mistakes".
"We have to stay alert at all times, and make sure we make no silly mistakes. The tournament is ours for the taking, and we need to get off to the best possible start."SAFF Women's Championship,