Buriram (Thailand): On their first trip to Thailand, the Indian women’s U17 team jumps into the unknown when it steps out to take on a team from the mighty South Korea in the AFC U17 Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers Round 2.
The Indian team has no time to waste. As the sun rose on a breezy Monday morning in Buriram, the India U17 Women’s team geared up for their AFC U17 Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers Round 2 match against Korea Republic U17, the only former champions among the eight teams in the two groups.
The day began with an activation session in the hotel, where the players displayed their eagerness to hit the training ground later in the evening.
This young Indian squad had exhibited immense promise and potential in the earlier matches of Round 1, securing their place in Round 2 by winning all their matches, a historic achievement for Women’s Football in India.
Their campaign to qualify for the AFC U17 Women’s Asian Cup 2024 begins on Tuesday against the mighty Koreans at the Buriram City Stadium.
Coach Priya PV expressed her enthusiasm during the pre-tournament press conference, saying, “I am very happy to be here in Buriram for Round 2 of the qualifiers, which is a historical event for every sport-loving Indian.
“We played two matches, winning all of them in the previous round. I believe this time we will also repeat ourselves. The players are eager to play tomorrow and give a fantastic performance,” she said.
The young Indian team has undergone rigorous training and preparation, determined to make a mark on the international stage. Despite facing the formidable Korea Republic, who are ranked 20th in the latest FIFA rankings at the senior level, Priya remains confident. She emphasised her focus on the attacking side and their ability to adapt to different strategies based on their opponents.
“We have a good batch of players; all of them are ready to take on the challenges and we have a long-term plan with this team. We had a two-month preparatory camp and played some friendly games, which helped the players grow in confidence. We are more focused on our attacking side and ready to show everyone our skills,” she was quoted as saying by aiff.com.
“I am confident and strongly believe that my girls can deliver the best. We will change our strategies depending on our opponents. Korea Republic are one of the best sides in Asia and we respect them. They are quick with the ball, and their speed, timing, and everything else are strong. But at the same time, we can do our best as well,” said Priya.
“Our federation is also focusing on women’s football, having the Indian Women’s League and other tournaments for the girls. I believe soon India will be one of the best sides in Asia,” added Priya.
Captain Menaka Devi expressed her determination, stating, “We know how strong our opponents are, but we are also ready to fight and come up with a good performance tomorrow. Yes, we respect them, but we are here to win; nothing less than it will satisfy us.”
Korea Republic, the 2009 champions of the AFC U17 Women’s Asian Cup, displayed dominance in Round 1 of the AFC U17 Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers, defeating Hong Kong and Tajikistan with huge margins of 12-0 and 16-0, securing the top spot in Group E.
India faced Korea Republic in the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2005, resulting in a victory for Korea. Known for their technical prowess and exceptional teamwork, they are determined to begin the tournament with a win against India.
“We are fully prepared to play attacking football against India. The Indian players are aggressive, and we have already assessed their strengths and weaknesses. We will also showcase our capabilities,” said the Korea Republic’s head coach, Kim Eunjung.
The top two teams from each group in the qualifiers will advance to the Finals, joining the highest-seeded sides from the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship Thailand 2019—defending champions Japan, DPR Korea, China PR and hosts Indonesia—in the Finals, scheduled for April 2024.