Indian women 'aim to make the big moment count’

India women's football team takes on Myanmar in the second round of AFC Olympic qualifiers.

Ratanbala Devi (centre) says the 90 minutes against Myanmar "are the most crucial" for India.   -  BISWARANJAN ROUT

Some say time is a flat circle. If that is so, the Indian Senior Women’s National Team seem to be on that spectrum.

Five months ago the Maymol Rocky coached team secured qualification in the Olympic Qualifiers Round 1 in November 2018 in Myanmar for the very first time. Now on the verge of securing qualification from Round 2 with only the hosts standing in their way, it seems more than a coincidence that this time too, the girls are in Myanmar, ready to battle against the hosts in the decider on Tuesday (April 9, 2019).

“We know it is a must win match for us. That is it. This is the big moment that we have all been waiting for when we started our preparation in December last year for the Round 2 qualifiers, and we aim to make it count,” proclaimed Head Coach Maymol Rocky.

The permutations and combinations are clear. Only a win for India will take it through to the next round of qualifiers, with only one team progressing from the Group A of the second round of AFC Olympic Qualifiers.

Though level on points, 6 each, Myanmar have a goal difference of +8, as compared to India’s +4 in the two matches played so far, which means it’s do-or-die for India.

“We have always taken one match at a time. We will do so against Myanmar too. We are aware of the quality they possess. We will have to be on the top of our game if we are to secure qualification. We know what is at stake. The next 90 minutes have the power to define women’s football back in India,” Maymol said.

“We knew this moment would come when the groups for the Round 2 Qualifiers were announced. We knew this would boil down to this – India against Myanmar. In all our 14 International matches we have prepared keeping this scenario somewhere at the back of our minds,” she added.

She wasn’t the only one to preempt it. Rival head coach Win Thu Moe also lauded the Indian team.

“India are very tough opponents. We played them in Hero Gold Cup, and they were difficult to break down. It is always hard to play against them and we know this moment would come where on April 9 we will be fighting it out as to who goes through,” Moe stated.

History seems to favour Myanmar. The last two encounters have ended both in Myanmar’s favour, with it winning 2-1 in the first round of Olympic Qualifiers in November 2018, and 2-0 in the Gold Cup held in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.

But past is past. Striker Dangemi Grace declared “the girls are ready for Myanmar.”

“We know how Myanmar will play. We have had sessions focused on dissecting them. We are ready for them. The match is all about who wants it more,” Grace expressed.

 “The last matches played against Myanmar were very close. We could have won them had we taken our chances. This time around we will make sure to capitalise on every mistake of the opponent.”

The nippy Ratanbala Devi highlighted the “crucial 90 minutes ahead.”

“These 90 minutes are the most crucial. We will make sure we leave no stone unturned in giving our cent percent. We have been preparing for this very moment, and aim to make it count,” Ratanbala explained.

Defender Sweety Devi believes “it will be more of a mental test.”

“We have already shown in all our matches that we are capable of putting immense pressure on our rivals. If we can score early, then we will have the advantage.”

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan has been ruled out of the clash against Myanmar following an injury. “Not having Aditi between the sticks is obviously a loss for us, but I am happy the way Linthoi Devi has performed in the matches against Indonesia and Nepal”, Rocky revealed.

The kick-off on Tuesday (April 9) is at IST 2.30pm.