Buriram, Thailand, Sep 22 (IANS): The uncomfortable silence that prevailed in the team bus while the India U17 Women’s team were returning from the Buriram City Stadium on Thursday night could easily be noted.
A 0-4 defeat against Thailand less than an hour ago put paid to India’s hopes of making any further advance in the AFC U17 Women’s Asian Cup qualifiers.
It was India’s second loss in two matches. They lost their opening match against former champions Korea Republic. The Young Tigresses’ third and final outing in Round 2 against IR Iran on Saturday, September 22, 2023, in this sleepy and tranquil town of Buriram is more of a battle of prestige than of any real consequence.
The players are well aware that their hopes of qualifying for the finals have been dashed. However, a glimmer still remains as they set their sights on the clash with IR Iran, hoping to secure their first points in the qualifiers. Korea Republic and Thailand have already booked their spots in the finals from this group.
Like the players, India’s coach Priya PV is disappointed, too. But she is not desperate. She can foresee the light at the end of the tunnel and points out the positive side.
Reflecting on recent defeats, Priya said: “While our players displayed discipline on the field yesterday, their lack of experience and individual quality were evident. Facing teams of this calibre requires experience, especially in one-on-one situations.”
Pointing out that Thailand have a formidable foundation in grassroots development, Priya said: “Their composure and consistency were qualities we lacked, and that ultimately proved costly in the game.”
In the lead-up to the tournament, the Indian team had undergone extensive training camps in Indore and Goa. However, the team could not play a few preparatory matches before leaving for Thailand and it did make some difference against stronger opponents.
Priya said, “Despite the girls’ unwavering efforts, we encountered significant challenges on the technical side. The match experience is priceless, as it equips players with the ability to read and respond to various in-game situations. The dearth of such experience was a pivotal factor, preventing our players from knowing and adapting to different scenarios.”
While talking about the upcoming match against Iran, who had also suffered defeats against Korea Republic (8-0) and Thailand (6-0), Priya expressed, “Iran are a good team known for their robust fitness levels.
“Nevertheless, our primary objective is to secure a victory for our country and the players. A triumph can serve as a potent motivator for our present and future players."
Priya also stressed the crucial need for players to truly understand the importance of ball possession. She highlighted the significance of refining skills and mastering the basics for a player’s growth.
“Having ball possession is important, and our players need to feel it. Emphasising technique and mastering the basics is crucial for our players,” she said.
Asked about the prospects of these young players, the coach stressed the need for a comprehensive scouting process, long-term player development plans, and regular practice matches against strong opponents.
She stated, “Proper scouting is an indispensable component of any age group tournament. Furthermore, I firmly believe that playing football should be driven by passion, not obligation. Genuine love for the sport is paramount; merely compelling individuals to play will not suffice.
“The innate emotion of scoring for one's country and putting in that extra effort holds immense importance. These aspects will naturally manifest when players engage in matches.”