The Indian women's football team enjoyed a lively 2019. A fifth successive SAFF Championship title, a third South Asian Games triumph, an agonising exit from the second round of the AFC Olympic Qualifiers on goal difference, the Gold Cup at home and a streak of exposure tours and friendlies, including the COTIF Cup in Spain – the women hustled all year round.
It was a historic period as the team played a staggering 32 matches, which is equivalent to the total number of games it played in the five years between 2014 and 2018.
India coach Maymol Rocky, who has been at the helm for over two years now, feels it is a sign of bigger things to come. “This is the first time the women's team has played so many matches. It has shown in our results. The players, the federation, and the government have to be given credit and it has been possible because everybody worked towards a common goal,” she told Sportstar.
Maymol is in Bhubaneswar, scouting for talent at the Khelo India University Games. “This is a great platform because the girls are getting to play more matches. They're all at the university level and are eligible to play for the national team. Some girls have shown a lot of promise and I feel the talent pool is getting bigger and gives us more opportunities to scout,” she said.
Two girls who played in the semifinal here, Goa's Karishma Shirvoikar and Tamil Nadu's Karthika Angamuthu, recently received call-ups to the national camp.
Not one to shy from slashing and changing her team, the former India footballer added that the large talent pool allows her to rotate her squad, leaving no room for complacency among her players. “If you've noticed, I've made a lot of changes in the national camp since the time I've joined. And in the future also, players will be replaced if they take it easy. Everybody needs to be on their toes and nobody can take it easy. Including me and my staff.”
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Women's football in India received a massive push with the country set to host the FIFA U-17 World Cup later this year and also the AFC Cup in 2022. As the host nation, India is assured of a spot in the group stage of the AFC Cup but Maymol is keen on her girls qualifying on merit. "We have an assured berth but want to get there on merit. I'm very confident of our girls doing it," she said.
“The national camp will begin in April or May and we will then play in the COTIF Cup and a few four-nation tournaments abroad. We will look to play a few higher-ranked teams,” she added.
The Indian women's football team is currently ranked 57th in the world and 11th in Asia.
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