The Indian senior women’s football team is giving finishing touches to their preparations for the upcoming 2014 AFC 2014 qualifiers at the Pune FC Ground in Pune today.
The women football probables had been training in Pune for more than a month now (the camp started on May 1) under the watchful eyes of national chief coach Anadi Barua.
It may be recalled here that Anadi was recently retained for the national coach job after guiding the India eves to a stunning solitary goal win over the Netherlands in an international friendly game in Navi Mumbai last January, after the hosts had lost the first of the two matches at Kolhapur 0-2.
And the national coach is now determined to maintain the winning momentum in the upcoming 2014 AFC Qualifiers. “We surprised a lot of people when we beat the Netherlands side at Kolhapur in front of a huge crowd. We now want to carry the same form in the 2014 AFC Qualifiers,” Anadi says in an exclusive interview.
The former India midfielder, who donned the national colours in the 1986 Nehru Cup in Thiruvananthapuram, believes the camp has panned out well for the girls. “It’s always good to have such a long duration camp. The girls have been able to shake off all their rustiness and are in good shape,” he quips.
The women footballers have been doing a lot of on-field and off-field training for the past one month. “We have a morning training session from 7:00 am to 9:00 am where girls on some days play few practice matches between themselves. Girls have gym sessions in the afternoon. A swimming session is also scheduled for girls in the first half of the day,” Anadi reveals.
Anadi, who played for various Delhi clubs like Simla Youngs, Indian Nationals, Moonlight and SBI in a career spanning nearly 16 years (1978-1994), knows the importance of studying videos of opposition teams and doing all the needful to fine-tune the team’s strategy for the 2014 AFC Qualifiers. “No team can be taken lightly. We are studying videos of our Group D opposition teams – Chinese Taipei, Myanmar and hosts Palestine. The video session is held every Sunday,” he affirms.
The State Bank of India employee discloses that the team’s focus at the training camp has been on attacking football. “We want to play attacking football. We are concentrating hard on this aspect of the game. Besides attacking football, we are also focusing a lot on zonal marking.”
Set-pieces often hold the key to a team’s fortunes and Anadi is putting extra emphasis on optimizing them. “Girls are working hard in sharpening their set-piece skills. Whether it is taking a shot in a penalty shootout or a corner or a free-kick, girls have to be fully prepared. Having skills to score goals from flag kicks and free kicks are a good weapon to have. We have quite a few players who can strike free kicks with ferocity from 25-30 yards out – we’ve a few girls who have got a lethal left foot.”
However, the team is facing injury niggles. “Four of our players – Rebika Devi, Ashalata Devi, Romi Devi and Tuli Goon are carrying niggles. We are hopeful about these girls being fit and available for selection.”
The women probables were pruned to 29 earlier in the week and would be finally trimmed to 23 on May 7. The team would play two practice games in Bahrain and leave New Delhi for Bahrain on May 12. “We were originally slated to visit Nepal but that trip has got cancelled. Now we would go to Bahrain to play two practice matches on May 14 and 16 before we reach Palestine on May 19,” he apprises.
India would launch their campaign on the opening day of the tournament, taking on Myanmar at the Faisal Al Huseni Stadium, West Bank on May 21st. The women in blue next take on Chinese Taipei on May 23. “We are bullish about our chances and would give more than 100% percent to top the group. I know it is not going to be easy but we would spare no effort to achieve that,” he sounds upbeat.
India eves would wrap up their engagements with their final league tie against Palestine on May 25.
It may be mentioned here that the Group B matches would be held in Bangladesh around the same time (from May 21-25) featuring hosts Bangladesh, Thailand, Philippines and Iran.
The Group C matches would be held in Bahrain from May 22-26 featuring hosts Bahrain, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam and Hong Kong, while the Group A matches would be held in Jordan from June 5-9 featuring hosts Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and Uzbekistan.
All the four group winners will join the four direct entrants – Korea, Australia, China and Japan at the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
Australia are the current champions, having won the 2010 edition edging out North Korea 5-4 (11) on penalties in the final held in Chengdu, China.