Led by their veteran skipper Bembem Devi, Indian women’s team cruised to the semifinals of the 2012 SAFF Women’s Championship, finishing as Group A winners. Placed alongside Bangladesh, Bhutan and hosts Sri Lanka, the Indian women were always considered as the favorites to top their group and they lived up to their billing, as they decimated group rivals and were the first ones to book a place in the last four of the tournament.
Joining them as runners up from Group A are hosts Sri Lanka, who came from a goal down against Bangladesh in their last group encounter to win in last few minutes.
TheHardTackle takes a look at India’s passage into the semifinal of the SAFF Championship and at who could most likely end up as their opponents in the semis from Group B.
India 3-0 Bangladesh
The rain gods were at their prime as the Indian eves stepped on the pitch in the first match against minnows Bangladesh at the CR & FC grounds in Colombo. With both teams having difficulty to even complete a single ground pass, the match was stopped barely fourteen minutes into the first half. The action resumed after nearly seventy five minutes but none of the sides managed to trouble the scorers till the half time as the wet pitch proved to be a dampener.
The condition of the pitch did not improve after the break but it seemed that the half time pep talk was all that the Indian eves required as they came out all guns blazing in the second half. Like first half, India enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the second period but they had to wait for another twenty minutes before Kamala Devi netted India’s first goal of the tournament. With quarter of an hour left on the clock captain Bembem Devi managed to get her name of the scorecard as her powerful left shot landed in the back of the net- giving India one goal’s insurance. The Indian backline was very well organized as Bangladesh could not even manage a single decent attack. Twenty four year old defender Tuli Goon from West Bengal played a flawless match gelling brilliantly with her experienced teammates. The defending champions did not let their guard down even during the dying moments of the match and scored their third, barely minutes from the final whistle and walked out of their first match with the all-important three points.
Sri Lanka 0-5 India
The crowd was against the Indian girls as they took to the field against the hosts Sri Lanka in their second group match. That did not prove to be a deterrent for the Indian eves and the higher ranked Indian side began to showcase their technical superiority from very beginning of the match. Unlike their previous encounter one did not get to wait till the second half of the match for a goal as the Suprava Samal scored a majestic goal from outside the box just quarter of an hour into the match. Sri Lankan players and crowd had barely recovered from the shock of conceding as Rinaroy Devi landed the second blow to the hosts by doubling India’s lead within the space of six minutes. Like Samal, Rina also managed to take advantage of the gaping holes in Sri Lanka’s defense as her powerful shot from outside the box landed in the back of the net. The match was over in the 51st minute as twenty two year old Rina, who is the youngest member in the Indian contingent, scored her second and India’s third due to a defensive lapse. By 56th minute Pinky Magar and Irom Devi made the scoreline 5-0 in favour of India. Rest of the match saw no goals being scored as Sri Lanka changed to a more defensive mindset in order to salvage some pride.
India 11-0 Bhutan
India were already assured of a place in the last four when they took on the field for the third match but that did not deter them from unleashing their wrath over lowly ranked Bhutan. Few years back, Bhutan was rated as the happiest country in Asia but the staggering score line of their 11-0 loss to Indian women’s team might have caused a lot of sorrow to India’s North East neighbours. The annihilation began on 13th minute as Bhutanese goalie made a blunder in judging the cross of Indian defender Tuli Goon which landed in the back of the net, giving an early lead to the women in blue. Ten minutes later yet another howler from Bhutanese goalkeeper helped India to double their lead as Kamala Devi netted her second goal of the tournament. India were awarded a penalty four minutes later which was coolly converted by Sasmita Malik. Kamala Devi completed her brace at the half hour mark as Bhutan’s defense was left in shambles. Pinky Magar scored first of her three goals in the 38th minute and Prameshowri Devi made it 6-0 to India before Bhutan’s team got a much needed half time breather.
The script of the match did not change during the course of the second half and Pinky Magar made it 7-0 in the 49th minute while Montesori Chanu scored India’s eighth goal in the 63th minute. The gap of fourteen minutes between the seventh and the eight goal was the longest gap between two goals for India in the match. Prameshowri Devi completed her brace a minute later as the scoreline read 9-0 in the 64th minute, a drastic change from their opening match against Bangladesh in which they netted their first at the same time. Magar completed her hat trick and India’s third in the span of three minutes as the scoreline reached double figures by the 65th minute. Supriya Routray scored the last goal of the match seventeen minutes from time to send Bhutan crashing out of the tournament.
Who Can India Meet In The Semifinals?
Nepal has been the team to beat in group B and is currently placed at the top of the group with one match still left to play. The only scenario in which 2010 runners up might end up facing India in the semis is, if Afghanistan comes up with the performance of their lifetime and defeats Nepal in their last group encounter; the chances of this happening are far and few between. TheHardTackle would suggest you to keep your money in your pockets as far as betting on an India – Nepal semifinal is concerned, as they are most likely to meet in final.
Currently placed second in group B, the women from Afghanistan are most likely to be India’s opponents in the semifinal on the 14th of September. A highly unlikely win over Nepal will place them at the top of the group which will place them against hosts Sri Lanka in the semis. Any other result and the women from war troubled nation will end up facing defending champions India.
With one point in two matches and with a goal difference of minus five, Maldives are currently placed third in the group. In order to qualify for semis they need to win with a huge margin against Pakistan, and at the same time they must hope for a huge favour from an in-form Nepal. If things do fall in the place for Maldives then then will qualify as Group B runners up and they will get to face favorites India in the last four.