Do-or-die for India’s U-16 girls

The team has to win against Laos on Sunday to make it to the next round of the qualification round.

India's U-16 girls' football team trains in Ulaanbaatar. Photo: AIFF

It’s a do-or-die scenario for India’s U-16 girls’ football team at the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship Qualifier at Ulaanbaatar, and coach Firmin D’ Souza is cognisant of the task at hand.

Having been defeated by host Mongolia on Friday, India will have to defeat Laos on Sunday to qualify through to the next round of the qualification round. The opposition is in form — Laos has an all-win record in the tourney so far, possessing nine points from three matches. India, on the other hand, has six points from three matches.

Need to be more clinical

“Everyone is aware of the situation and we know that we have to perform much better than whatever we have done till now. We have to be more clinical in front of the opposition goal,” Firmin said, looking ahead to the contest.

Although a draw would be enough for Laos to qualify, Firmin did not think the team would play for a draw. “I don't think they would [play for a draw]. Chances are less that they would play for a draw. They have got some really good attackers and it’s likely they will try for a win. We need to have our strategies in place,” he said.

The Indian team would have to be “sharp enough” to stop Laos’ potent midfielders from playing their natural game, Firmin recognised.

Hard lesson

Summing up his team’s drawbacks so far, Firmin, referring to the 2-1 loss against Mongolia, said, “We were not so clinical inside the opposition box and it cost us dearly. Besides that, girls had a pretty fair game and we hit the bar twice.”

He added, “The two goals which we conceded shouldn't have happened. We should have scored at least 5 goals. But at the end of the day, the results matter and we have learnt a lesson in the hardest way. We have to utilise those opportunities in the future so that we don't regret later.”

Firmin pointed out, however, that the Indian team was playing in conditions not familiar to them. “Since we were playing the hosts who are pretty comfortable playing in such conditions, we knew how much challenging it would have been. It was really difficult for the girls to play their natural game in such a cold weather,” he said.

The match against Laos will be played at the MFF stadium in Ulaanbaatar 1430 IST onwards.