Host India will play for pride, while for a few others, there’s a lot at stake in the final Group A and Group B games of the 2022 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup with three quarterfinal spots still to fight for.
India and Brazil from Group A and Nigeria and Chile from Group B will be in action at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
The other four teams from the same groups (USA, Morocco – Group A and Germany, New Zealand – Group B) will play their matches at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Margao, Goa.
Brazil has four points from two matches, while Morocco – after beating India 3-0 – has three points, sitting third on the points table.
If the young Atlas Lionesses beat the United States of America (USA) on October 17 and Brazil fails to draw or win against the host tomorrow, the South American team will be out of the World Cup.
Simone Jatoba, the Brazilian head coach, has started with the same eleven in both games, and gave his regulars a rest day ahead of the important clash.
On match eve, the team stressed on endurance training – two its players (Aline and Jhonson) suffered from cramps mid-game in the tie against the USA.
India looks to end campaign on a high
For India, hopes of further progress in the tournament are over after two consecutive losses. The host and New Zealand are the only two teams in the tournament without a point so far.
Against Brazil, head coach Thomas Dennerby said that the team would look to limit its opponent’s goal-scoring prowess and steal a goal, if possible.
“I think we have to be as aggressive as we were against Morocco. We must be quick in pressing and defending well and to shut down spaces because we know they have a super-fast forward in No. 9,” he said, talking about Jhonson.
“If you look at the stats, she is up over 33 km/hr – that’s top-class speed. They have good wingers and midfielders that can feed the ball to the No. 9.”
Thomas Dennerby’s side looked defensively better against Morocco compared to its opener against the USA but had just one shot on target – Anita Kumari’s 83rd-minute one-on-one chance, which was saved by Morocco’s goalkeeper Wissal Titah.
At practice, the forwards were seen practising just that – side-stepping and beating defenders one-on-one.
“The hardest part to learn in football is the final pass, with accuracy at the right moment to the right player and that takes time. In the five months of preparation, as a coach, the preference is to teach how to defend. But these things take time,” he said before the match.
“What could have changed really for us (if I should point out one thing) is that, if we had one top-class striker, that would have changed things for us.”
Dennerby was in the dugout when India’s senior women’s team scored a goal against Brazil in November last year.
“We lost 1-6 in that game, but we actually played quite well in the first half, and Manisha (Manisha Kalyan) scored a beautiful goal. Hopefully, we can score a goal tomorrow also,” he said. “We hope we can steal a couple of balls and can have some good quick attacks and I think we also have chances on set-pieces. We have looked at their set pieces and they are not as organised as the USA, so I think we have a better chance here.”
All to play for
The competition gets tighter in the other game – a Group B match between Chile and Nigeria. Both teams are level on points and a win for either will secure a quarterfinal berth.
Chile – returning to the tournament after 12 years – opened its campaign against New Zealand with a 2-1 win in Goa. But its defence was exposed in a 0-6 defeat against Germany in the last match – something it will be cautious of when it eyes a comeback in Bhubaneswar.
Nigeria, on the other hand, comes into the game with a 4-0 win over New Zealand. Its most important weapon has been long shooting – with four of its five goals coming through the same.
Miracle Usani, its highest goal-scorer in the tournament, will be its target player through set-pieces and free kicks. She opened her account with a free-kick goal against Germany and doubled it with a right-footed curler from distance against New Zealand.
USA in a fix for quarterfinal spot, against Morocco
Germany, already secured of a quarterfinals spot, will look to use the game against New Zealand to sharpen its skills further ahead of the knockout rounds.
The USA, though, will need to either draw or win against Morocco to secure its quarterfinal spot.
A win for the USA will secure its and Brazil’s ticket to the quarterfinals while a draw might bring goal difference into account for Morocco (+2) and Brazil (+1), if the Latin Americans fails to find a point against India.
If Brazil and the USA both lose, the team with the higher goal difference will be through and here, too, Brazil (+1) trails the United States (+8).
If Morocco wins and Brazil earns at least a point against India, the USA – deemed one of the favourite of the tournament – will be out of the competition.
“We can put them in doubt, as we did against Brazil. They’re probably the favourites in the competition. If Morocco does not win the competition, I think the United States will. We’re one point less than them and everything can happen,” said Morocco’s head coach Anthony Rimasson.
“We have our weapons as well. We must remember this is our first time in the tournament and sometimes, the first competitions are the best. It is going to be tough, but we will do everything we can because we are here to represent our country,” he added.