SAFF U-19 Women's Championship

Girls aspire to emulate senior booters’ recent show

Bangladesh aim to match the standard the senior women’s team set against Singapore in recent FIFA friendlies as they begin their title defence of the SAFF U-19 Women’s Championship, beginning Friday.

The girls in red and green will take on last edition’s runners-up Nepal at Birshreshtha Shaheed Mostafa Kamal Stadium in Kamalapur at 7:00pm, two hours after India and Bhutan clash at the same venue.

The coaches of three visiting teams believed that all four participating teams are equally likely to win the title, but the focus will undoubtedly be on Bangladesh, who won the tournament three times since its inception in 2018 with the U-18 age group.

Bangladesh have previously emerged as champions while hosting this event in 2021 and 2023. The three-time winners had only lost the tournament in 2022 despite being level on points with India as goal difference decided the champions.

Nonetheless, Bangladesh are regarded as the main title contenders in their home ground, even though India have brought a strong team consisting of seven to eight players who have participated in the ongoing Indian Women’s League, as well as four to five players who have experience playing in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in India in 2022.

“We said before that we want to set our benchmark performance to the Bangladesh senior team’s FIFA friendly matches against Singapore [where they won 3-0 and 8-0 in early December], and now it is time to see how they can perform, given that these girls are playing together for the first time,” Bangladesh head coach Saiful Bari Titu told reporters at the pre-tournament press conference at the BFF House yesterday.

“We want to progress match by match, and I believe that if we can beat Nepal tomorrow [Friday], we will be one step closer to the final,” further said Titu, who believes they will have a home advantage playing on the bouncy artificial turf, adding that his charges have no idea about Nepal, a side they had beaten six times and drawn once in this event.

India coach Sukla Dutta said, “We know Bangladesh have not only been champions in this tournament but also champions of senior SAFF championship, so we have taken preparation ourselves in that way after forming the squad but we are confident that we will perform strongly in a bid to win the title, though three other teams are also tough sides.”

Nepal coach Bal Gopal Shahu stated, “We feel we are favourites to win the championship, but other opponents are very good. We arrived at the tournament with a three-week training and are ready to compete hard in each match. The encounter versus Bangladesh is an important one that will decide our fate in this tournament.”

Bhutan coach Tanka Maya Ghalley stated that his players are both psychologically and physically prepared to compete for the ultimate honours.

“Even though the girls are young, we came here to win the title. Another motto of ours is to gather international experience that will help the girls develop in the future,” Ghalley explained.

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