Powerhouse India faces Bhutan in its opening match of the SAFF U-20 Women’s Championship on Friday, with the team, mainly made up of players from the FIFA U-17 World Cup campaign last year, hoping to clinch the title in the inaugural edition.
Hosts Bangladesh and Nepal are the other teams in the tournament. All the matches will be played at the Bir Sherestha Shaheed Shipahi Mostafa Kamal Stadium.
After a four-team round robin, the top two teams will play the final on February 9.
India takes on Bangladesh on February 5 and Nepal on February 7.
India head coach Maymol Rocky stressed the importance of having a mix of experienced and young players in the squad, including those who have played in the senior national team already.
“We have a mixture of youth and experience in our team, players that have played at the senior level as well, so I am sure the girls will give their 100 per cent and the results will follow,” Maymol said at the pre-match press conference.
When asked about the opposition teams in the tournament, she said, “Bhutan are a good side, as are Nepal. Bangladesh have been doing brilliantly in the last few years, and they are definitely the team to watch out for.”
“But if we give it our best shot, we can overcome all obstacles.”
India captain Martina Thokchom, one of the players to have played in the senior national team, spoke about the advantages of being in the same camp with the senior side in the build-up to the championship.
“Yes, we are a junior team, but we were in the same camp as the seniors, and that has really helped us. We all stayed in the same hotel and even played a match together. It was a good learning experience, especially for the new girls in this team.”