ULAN BATOR: Six days after India’s comprehensive victory over Pakistan in the SAFF Suzuki Cup semi-final, it’s India vs Pakistan again! This time it’s in Mongolia — in the AFC U-16 Women’s Qualifiers.
The Indian girls started their campaign on a winning note, breezing past Hong Kong 6-1 in their opening fixture and as the team looks forward to the next ‘big one’, coach Firmin D’Souza maintained, “We are ready for the test.”
“Every game is equally important for us. We are carrying with us the hopes of the entire country and we can’t let them down. It’s a match against Pakistan and we are looking forward to it,” Firmin, who guided India to win the SAFF U-15 Women’s Championship in Bhutan last month, stated.
For the record, Pakistan lost to hosts Mongolia 0-8 in their opening encounter before going down 0-3 against Laos.
Although the Girls in Blue are leading the group at this moment, the coach shared that the extreme weather condition is taking a toll on them and they are trying their level best to get acclimatised.
“With temperature averaging at close to 2-degree centigrade and constant chilling winds hovering around, it’s a heavy challenge for the girls to come up with their best. But we are trying our best to get accustomed with that,” he informed.
“However, the girls have fared well so far and they’re putting in 100% in every training session.”
Incidentally, a heavy rain and snowfall are expected tomorrow and forecasts suggest the mercury level might take a nosedive to as low as -3 degree centigrade.
Barring the inaugural edition which was hosted by the Korea Republic in 2005, India haven’t been able to qualify for the finals until now.
The iconic Bembem Devi, currently the Assistant Coach of the team warned that “complacency must not creep in.”
“We have kicked-off well but that’s the most dangerous thing in football. Complacency must not creep in and we should continue our job in our next few games. Only one team will qualify and we are eyeing nothing but the top spot to seal a berth in the finals next year,” she quipped.
The India Men’s Team had registered a 3-1 win over their Pakistani counterparts in the recently-concluded SAFF Championship in Dhaka.
“We were unable to watch it in Mongolia but we were following the action closely on social media. A win is always something which sends a positive energy amongst all and we’ll try to replicate it tomorrow,” Bembem pronounced.
Back in 2010, the India women’s team registered a convincing 8-0 victory over their neighbours in the SAFF Championship and Bembem Devi, the then skipper recalled the experience.
“We played against Pakistan in the SAFF Championship in 2010. At Cox’s Bazar (Bangladesh), we got a decent cheering behind us. Pakistan also had some noisy supporters. They had their own plans but we stuck to ours and executed it well to churn out a positive result,” Bembem Devi mentioned.
“Along with me, Bala, Sasmita and a few other senior players were there and we put everything aside and played our natural game. Our girls were all over the ground and that led us to a comfortable win to help us advance to the final.”
The match will kick-off at 10.30am IST and will be streamed live on Mycujoo TV.