Estonia triumph: A blossoming rainbow on women’s football horizon

ALANYA, TURKEY: In this storied city of Alanya, Turkey, a new chapter in the history of Indian women’s football was unfolded on Wednesday, February 21, 2024, when the Blue Tigresses secured a tightly contested 4-3 victory over Estonia in their Turkish Women’s Cup opener. Never before had India ever beaten a European nation in women’s football.

As the match ended and the teams prepared to leave, a gentle drizzle was followed by a beautiful rainbow that appeared on the horizon of the picturesque Gold City complex stadium. It seemed that after enduring the challenges and storms of the game, nature itself offered a reminder of the age-old proverb: “After every storm, there is a rainbow.” 

The Senior National Women’s Team had never faced Estonia before, and defeating them provided an additional boost for the upcoming games against Hong Kong and Kosovo in the Turkish Women’s Cup. The team had been struggling with their form for a year, with consecutive losses. Securing a win after so many months was meaningful, as everyone celebrated with smiles and laughter, thoroughly enjoying the moment.

Manisha Kalyan stole the spotlight by scoring a brace. She said on Thursday, “It feels really good, and earning three points was important for us. It’s a good start for us and the team is also happy after yesterday’s win. Patience is crucial, especially during challenging matches when we feel scoring is important. I was feeling irritated in between when my shots were missed, but I knew I would score.

“Personally, I’m never content with my performance. I know I could have been more clinical with my finishing and avoided some missed chances and misplaced passes. I will try to improve my accuracy in front of the goal and contribute more to scoring goals.”

When asked about how important the win against a European side was, she said, “I believe most people recognise the superiority of European football, but participating in such competitions is an invaluable experience for our team. It boosts our confidence and motivates us to perform well in our future games.

“As a national team, we’re progressing well. Our collective performance, from build-up play to finishing and passing, was not that great yesterday, but we are committed to learning from our mistakes and enhancing our game style. 

“Having played a number of matches earlier and learned from our defeats, we understand the importance of winning this tournament. The fire in us is always burning high to win every match,” she said.

Manisha, who plays as a forward for Cyprus’s First Division club Apollon Ladies, is well acquainted with the playing style of European sides and said, “The style of play at my club differs from what we saw against Estonia. However, this variation was valuable to me, providing me with more experience and opportunities to learn.”

Indumathi Kathiresan, who contributed the second goal, also believes that confidence is high amongst the team after yesterday’s performance and said, “Winning the match has given us the confidence to win against Hong Kong and Kosovo next. The match went smoothly, with the entire team performing cohesively as a unit, which allowed me, despite being a defending midfielder, to score. 

“I saw the ball near me and was standing right in the position. I took the shot, and fortunately, it went in,” she smiled. 

“Effective communication was key, as I constantly reminded my teammates to follow the ball at all times. We must acknowledge the misplaced passes and learn from our mistakes. Maintaining high morale is crucial, even in the face of missed opportunities. And that was important for me as a player. Following a goal, we tend to ease up and resort to long balls and fouls, but we need to address this tendency.

“Although we’ve previously struggled in other competitions earlier, our goal is to win every match. Confidence levels may fluctuate, but we’re striving to gel as a team and deliver consistent performances. It always sets a good example for younger players to follow,” she added. 

Pyari Xaxa, who frequently found herself in front of the goal, unleashing shot after shot without finding the net, expressed a sense of relief upon finally scoring and said, “It’s tough when I miss a shot after receiving the ball, and it really affected my morale yesterday. But after the match, everyone was confident, including me, because we won a game after a long time and it was showing in everyone’s faces as well.

“Despite the misses, I kept pushing, and eventually, Soumya passed the ball to Anju, who then set me up for the goal. Scoring that goal gave me immense joy, knowing I wouldn’t get scolding from my didis (senior players) anymore after the match,” she laughed.

Also Read: Mumbai City FC Eye Important Win on the Road Against Chennaiyin FC

Also Read: FC Goa faces second straight defeat after NorthEast United secures 2-0 win over the Gaurs

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