Updated March 9th, 2024 at 21:36 IST

India and Bangladesh meet again for SAFF U16 Women's Championship glory

India are very good. You can see that they've scored 18 goals in the three matches, which shows their attacking strength.

SAFF U16 C'ship | Image:AIFF
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For the seventh time in women's SAFF history, India and Bangladesh will meet in a final, battling for the SAFF U16 Women's Championship 2024 trophy on Sunday, March 10, 2024, at the ANFA Complex in Lalitpur at 14:45 IST. The final will be streamed live on the Sportzworkz YouTube Channel.

On the previous six occasions, India have won the title thrice (senior in 2016, U15 in 2018 and 2019), Bangladesh have emerged champions twice (U15 in 2017 and U19 in 2021), while the latest meeting as recently as 30 days ago in the U19 final, ended with the trophy being shared in Dhaka. India and Bangladesh have been the most successful nations in women's football in the South Asian region, and Sunday will add yet another chapter to this rivalry.

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Unsurprisingly, these two sides have been a class apart in the tournament so far. While India have thrashed Bhutan 7-0 and Nepal 10-0, Bangladesh also recorded comfortable wins - 2-0 over Nepal and 6-0 over Bhutan. However, in the round-robin match between the finalists, the Bengal Tigresses drew first blood, running out 3-1 winners just four days ago. Psychologically, that will be an advantage for Saiful Bari Titu's side, but India will arrive into the match rejuvenated after the refreshing win over Nepal, and eager for both - redemption and the trophy.

"Tomorrow is a new day," said India head coach Biby Thomas at the pre-match press conference. "What happened in the previous match is in the past. We believe we played very well in that game but conceded due to some silly mistakes. However, the final is tomorrow. The players are very pumped and ready to give their all."

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India captain Shveta Rani, who has a goal and two assists so far, said, "I respect Bangladesh. They are a good side. But we're focusing on our game only. We will play our best football and give our hundred percent to win the trophy."

Thomas admitted that the Young Tigresses were not at their best in the loss to Bangladesh, and hopes they can play to their full potential on the day it matters the most.

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"Our game style is good. We did not struggle in the other two matches. The players know the mistakes they committed against Bangladesh and how they can overcome them. Definitely, our girls will do better tomorrow," he said.

The golden boot race will be a sub-plot in Sunday's final. Bangladesh's Sauravi Akanda Prity and India's Anushka Kumari are tied at five goals apiece, while Pearl Fernandes is not far behind with four to her name. Interestingly, Prity and Anushka operate in totally different roles for their teams, the former an out-and-out striker, and the latter an attacking midfielder who sits just behind Pearl and occasionally drifts wide too.

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Sharing his thoughts on India's attacking prowess, Bangladesh head coach Saiful Bari Titu said, "We have worked hard, and are now left with one match - the final. I think the best two teams are playing in the final. India are very good. You can see that they've scored 18 goals in the three matches, which shows their attacking strength. Anything can happen in a final. It should be a memorable game for all of us."

Bangladesh captain Arpita Biswas, who was one of the scorers in the win over India, said, "We trained together for one month before the tournament. We have players from across the country and have a good team spirit. We hope to continue our high level in the final tomorrow."

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Published March 9th, 2024 at 21:36 IST