CHENNAI: India will look to iron out the shortcomings ahead of their second International friendly match against Nepal at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai, on Saturday, February 18, 2023.

The first match ended in a 2-2 draw after India took the lead in the second half through goals from Soumya Guguloth and Indumathi Kathiresan. However, Nepal left it late in injury time, when Sabitra Bhandari netted two goals in three minutes to draw level.

Indian Women’s Team Head Coach Thomas Dennerby sounded cautious on the eve of the second International friendly, saying, “We were certainly the better of the two sides on the day, and definitely should have closed that match with a comfortable win. It was just a few minor mistakes that led to those late goals.”

The Blue Tigresses coaching staff has been tirelessly working with the players to get smooth the creases, and Dennerby believes that these are the experiences that will eventually help the players ahead of the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers First Round, where India has been placed in Group G, alongside the Kyrgyz Republic and Turkmenistan.

“Mistakes tend to happen, and we never blame any individuals for them – we are all human after all. What we try to do, though, is to learn from them and improve for the better, and that is something I have seen in these girls, over the last couple of years,” said Dennerby.

“That is why high-intensity International Friendlies like these are essential. I would rather have them commit such mistakes in these games and learn from them, rather than do that in the Olympic Qualifiers,” he said.

Despite the fact that the team had a near-comfortable victory snatched from under its feet, Dennerby was quite positive about how the Blue Tigresses are shaping up.

“Results don’t always reflect the real picture. Anybody who saw the last game can see that we were the better team. Some of the intricate moves that the girls had put together showed that they have a real aptitude for the game. As a coach, that gives me a lot of hope,” he said.

India will be without some key figures in the second friendly against Nepal, with the likes of Bala Devi and Aditi Chauhan joining Ashalata Devi and Ratanbala Devi on the treatment table. Dennerby, however, maintained a positive outlook.

“It’s quite a blow for the players and for the team as well. Aditi has an ACL, and Bala has shoulder injuries from a bad fall,” said Dennerby. “But we take it in our stride. This is also a good chance for the other players to step up to the plate and prove their mettle.”

Indumathi Kathiresan, who had the pleasure of scoring in an international match in her home state for the first time, feels that the support from the stands is something that the players really appreciate.

“We have not played in front of our home crowd for quite some time now, especially due to the pandemic. It was special,” she said. “We were heart-broken after the final whistle that we could not secure the win. But we surely want to win it for the fans in the next game.”

Nepal head coach Anant Thapa sounded optimistic about his side’s prospects, saying that it may just be down to a matter of converting the chances for the team.

“India are of course a very good side. But we have worked out their strengths and weaknesses. We got a lot of chances in the last game, and we need to utilise them to make life a little easier for us,” said Thapa. “I think it will be an even contest, and hopefully, the girls will be able to implement the things that we have worked on in the training ground, and win the match.”

India’s match against Nepal will kick-off at 7 pm IST at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai, on February 18, and will be streamed live on FanCode.


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