The Indian women’s football team will take on Nepal in the first of the two friendly games between the two sides at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Wednesday.
India will be looking to set things straight with Nepal, having lost to its neighbour 0-1 in the SAAF Championship semifinal in September last year, in what would turn out to be its last competitive fixture.
“Hopefully, we can come back now. We need to show we can perform better than that [SAFF semifinal defeat to Nepal]. Football is about having self-confidence. So, I think it is important for us to win these two games [against Nepal]. We will come out with a strong team as we have to win to show India is a strong team,” said India’s head coach Thomas Dennerby.
For Nepal coach Anant Thapa, these two games offer an opportunity to build on the famous win his side achieved a few months ago.
“India is a very competitive team and there is a good fight between us at the SAFF level. We were able to win last time and would love to continue on that. India has their star players coming back, so we have to work out a plan and execute it,” said Thapa.
The Indian team has been training in Chennai for the last month, along with the under-20 and under-17 sides.
“It is good for the youngsters to have their role models along with them. The seniors can help the juniors with experience. The step from under-17 to under-20 and under-20 to senior camp is not too far. So it makes sense to have all of them together,” said Dennerby, who had expressed his interest in having joint camps last year.
The senior side is in preparation for an intense year, starting with the first round of the Olympic qualifiers in April, where it will face the Kyrgyz Republic and Turkmenistan, with the Gold Cup and Asian Games to follow later this year.
Dennerby now has a full-strength side at his disposal, having had to deal with the absence of a few major players during its defeat to Nepal last time out.
One player who missed that game was midfielder Indumathi Kathiresan. The 28-year-old, who hails from Tamil Nadu, expressed her joy in playing in front of her home crowd.
“I have been playing for so long and I never got a chance to play for the national team at my home. Now I have had such a long camp here and will now get to play here in Tamil Nadu. Really excited for these two games.”
India will be without its captain and key defender Ashalata Devi for both games against Nepal due to a knee injury.
“Ashalata Devi needs at least ten more days to recover. We will also be without midfielder Ratanbala Devi, who had a knock during a friendly last week,” added Dennerby.
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