Arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder, Blue Tigresses psyched up for Turkish Women’s Cup title

ALANYA, TURKEY: History will beckon the Indian Senior Women’s Team when they step onto the quaint Gold City Sports Complex here on Tuesday, February 27, 2024, to play against Kosovo in their concluding round-robin match of the Turkish Women’s Cup.

A victory in this match will fetch India their first-ever international title outside the South Asian region. The match will kick off at 1.30 PM IST and will be live-streamed on the Evima Football YouTube channel. 

The Blue Tigresses have won their two matches in the four-team round-robin, securing victories against Estonia (4-3) and Hong Kong (2-0) to accumulate six points. Kosovo have also garnered six points with victories against Hong Kong (1-0) and Estonia. Kosovo, however, are ahead of India (+3) in goal difference (+4).

Given the standings of the two teams in the competition, Tuesday’s match has assumed the importance of a virtual final, though a draw would be enough for Kosovo to win the title for the second time in a row. India would need to bag three points to take the trophy home.

The head coach, Chaoba Devi, however, stays unperturbed and is not going into the match with such calculations in mind. To her, it’s a match that can change the course of women’s football in India.

“Tomorrow’s match against Kosovo holds immense importance for us and securing a win and taking the trophy back would be a historic achievement. Our girls are motivated. They are hardcore professionals, well-versed in every aspect of preparation, from nutrition to rest. They are looking fresh and fully prepared for the challenge ahead,” she said ahead of the Kosovo clash. 

Chaoba, herself a former India player and captain, said she was perfectly aware of the feelings her wards could be having in their minds on the eve of this hugely consequential clash.

“As a player, I always tried to go with a winning attitude and give my everything on the pitch. I see the same spirit in the eyes of my players, like Ashalata Devi, Anju Tamang, Manisha Kalyan, Pyari Xaxa, etc. I am confident they will approach this game with their hearts and souls and an attitude that will only be about winning,” she said.

The Kosovo women’s national team, known as the Dardanians, draw its name from an ancient Paleo-Balkan tribe that inhabited the territory of Dardania in Southeast Europe. They were the champions, along with Slovenia, in last year’s edition by defeating all three opponents, Estonia (2-1), Hong Kong (7-0), and Bulgaria (2-1), in their group.

“Kosovo present a strong challenge, far greater than Estonia or Hong Kong. After studying their past matches, I am confident that if our girls unite and play together, we can win. We must treat this match as the final, with no room for anything but victory. We don’t have any plan B with us.

“We have played against teams like Romania, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan earlier. However, Kosovo, having potential players, pose a different challenge. They will not treat us lightly and will not allow us space to score, but we will be ready for the challenge,” she said. 

The team had a relaxed and fun training session on Sunday, where the players were seen enjoying and playing a few games, but today it was different. “Today’s training session was dedicated to strengthening our defence and perfecting our counterattacks, leaving no stone unturned in our preparation. I will discuss further strategies with my team in the team meeting,” she said. 

Forward Grace Dangmei believes that unity and good communication will be key for tomorrow. Apart from being a regular in the senior women’s national team camp, Grace played for Uzbek Women’s League side FC Nasaf Karshi and scored four goals in the season. She knows the challenges and important aspects of playing with foreign opponents and said, “For me, unity within the group is important. With my playing experience in Uzbekistan and playing against stronger teams for the national team as well, I have learned the importance of support, from the goalkeeper to the forward line. 

“Whenever someone makes a mistake, encouragement should always be there. A simple ‘come on’ could make a big difference. So, for us, it’s vital to back each other up tomorrow. No matter the mistake, we must rally together and keep fighting until the final whistle.”

Defender-turned-goalkeeper Elangbam Panthoi Chanu shared her thoughts and said, “Tomorrow, our strategy is to maintain our positions. Kosovo are very strong on short passes and have exceptional passing quality. Good communication between the goalkeeper and defenders will be key to our performance. It’s a solution to many challenges in the field.

“Within our team, there’s no room for negativity, especially among us, the goalkeepers. We are like a close-knit family, treating each other like sisters. We support and assist one another. Whether it’s Shreya (Hooda) or Mona (Monalisha Devi) in goal, they are both equally important to me. Our coach has emphasised the importance of supporting each other and performing our game plan on the field. Our success tomorrow depends on our capacity to understand and complement each other well,” she said.

Also Read: Kerala Blasters FC storms back into form with a dominant win over FC Goa

Also Read: Azza’s goal in vain as Kabiraj Singh’s screamer seals win for Manipur over Maharashtra

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