Ramallah, May 20 (IANS) Indian women’s football team will have to be at their best when they take on Myanmar, a higher ranked team, in their first match of the AFC Asian Cup (qualifiers) here Tuesday.
There’s a difference of five places – Myanmar are 46th in the FIFA rankings while India are 51st.
“This match will decide our fate. We need a good start. The first match always sets the tone. The real test begins now,” coach Anadi Barua said.
“We start from scratch Tuesday evening. No pressure and no permutation and combinations. This is to me the most important game. We need to approach it as if it’s the decider,” he added.
India come into the tournament high on confidence after winning both their international friendlies against Bahrain in Manama.
Add to that, India have been in good form of late winning the SAFF Championships for the second consecutive time last year and then getting the better of a combined Dutch team in one of the exhibition matches played in January this year in Navi Mumbai.
“I would not like to read too much into the friendlies but the victories, especially the second one, was a morale-boosting one. It also gave me a chance to asses my team’s strengths and weaknesses. The one-month camp in Pune helped too. You need to have the entire bunch together for a long period before such an important tournament,” Barua opined.
“We have very little idea about India. All I can say is the first match is always very important. We have been training hard and are confident of pulling off a good show come the morrow,” Barua’s counterpart Yoshinori Kumada added.
India’s best performance in the AFC Cup final round was back in 1997 when they finished fifth. The 51st ranked side last played in the finals back in 2003. The qualifiers came into existence from 2006. Prior to that, teams were directly seeded in the finals.
Out of the 16 teams vying for a place in the finals, only four will make the cut to Japan next year from the qualifiers. The other four seeded outfits are defending champions Australia, World Champions and hosts Japan, South Korea and China.