When India lock horns with Iran for their opening game of the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship China 2015 Qualifiers at the Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka on Friday, they would know that they are facing the best team in the Group.
Having watched the teens in red steamroll the United Arab Emirates by a whopping 9-0 margin in the first game of Group B on Wednesday afternoon, the blue brigade – who are the only team left to open their account – will have learnt that they have to be on their toes if they are to bag all three crucial points in the first match.
Prior to matchday all the talk was surrounding Jordan, the highest ranked team in the group. Added they also travelled to the land of the world champions Germany to rehearse for the meet.
But after hosts Bangladesh bridged the gulf in FIFA World Ranking – 100, with Jordan ranked 57th in the world to Bangladesh’s 117 – like building a bridge in a video game (they pulled off a stunning 0-1 upset), it seems Iran are well and truly the early pacesetters.
The flip side to the story though is that Iran’s opponent, by their own admission, do not hold much water. According to UAE team manager Aliah Hussain AbdulRahman this is the country’s first female team playing their first international competition.
“We don’t have a senior team for women,” Aliah who is also donning the hat of a translator told reporters at the post match Media Interaction.
“This is our first team for women of any kind. We played the AFC U-14 Championship (AFC U-14 Girls Regional Championship 2013 for the South and Central region) last year but that was only one group affair.
This is the team we are building for future. This will be our first team.”
As if this drubbing was expected, UAE’s Tunisian Head Coach Samir Laldolsi added that “we need to give this time. We don’t expect good results here. We are still learning,”
True then that not much should be drawn from this routing but for Friday India have their work cut out on the strike duo of Iranian captain Fatehmeh Geraeli and Fetemeh Ghasemi who wrecked havoc in opponent goal.
“They are two really good strikers,” remarked India Head Coach Maymol Rocky.
“We have to be very careful against them. They are ever-ready to pounce of any loose ball.”
The budding footballers who had grabbed a brace apiece in the AFC U-14 meet last year in Colombo found the back of the net four times this time out as well against a hapless UAE.
“We don’t have any special plans for them. We just need to hold fort and not let them get the better of us in one on one situation,” stated Rocky who is in her sophomore year as the U-16 National Coach.
India play a 4-4-2 system like Iran. “They depend a lot on their flanks to make moves,” added Rocky who was in attendance for the Iran V UAE match.
“They hold the ball well too. We have to make sure we plan to our plan and not lose focus. Our girls are confident of delivering,” added the Goan keeping her cards close to her chest.
Iran counterpart Shadi Mahini on the other hand played the ‘Jose Mourinho card’ when quizzed about India.
“I said at the press conference yesterday (pre tournament media briefing) that Jordan and India are favourites. Now I feel it will be India.”
The Iran U-16 Women’s Team have been preparing for the Qualifers for the last seven months, their camp culminating in a tour to Uzbekistan where they played the Uzbek U-16 Women’s Team thrice succumbing to defeats on all of three occasions.
(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)