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Confident India begin SAFF U-20 Women’s C’ship campaign against Bhutan

Dhaka, Feb 2 (IANS) The India U-20 women’s national team will depend on it’s mixture of youth and experience as they embark on their SAFF U-20 Women’s Championship campaign here on Friday.

India head coach Maymol Rocky stressed the importance of having a mix of experienced and young players in the squad, including those that have played in the Senior National Team already.

“We have had 20 days to prepare for SAFF U-20 Championship, and are also in the process of preparing for the AFC U-20 Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers. We began with 35 players in the camp and have shortlisted it down to 23 for this tournament,” Maymol said on the eve of the India U-20s’ match against Bhutan.

“We have a mixture of youth and experience in our team, players that have played at the senior level as well, so I am sure the girls will give their 100 per cent and the results will follow,” she said.

Asked about her opponents for the tournament, Maymol showed ample respect, but believes that India can overcome all challenges if the girls give it their all.

“Bhutan are a good side, as are Nepal. Bangladesh have been doing brilliantly in the last few years, and they are definitely a team to watch out for,” she said. “But if we give it our best shot, we can overcome all obstacles.”

India captain Martina Thokchom, one of the players who have played in the Senior Women’s Team before, spoke of the advantages of being in the same camp with the Blue Tigresses in the build-up to the SAFF Championship.

“Yes, we are a junior team, but we were in the same camp as the seniors, and that has really helped us get. We all stayed in the same hotel and even played a match together. It was a good learning experience, especially for the new girls in this team,” said Martina.

Bhutan U-20 Women’s Team Head Coach Karma Dema looked to play down her side’s preparation ahead of the championship, stating that participating in the event would be a learning curve for them.

“We feel happy and blessed to participate in SAFF. Our preparation has not been as long as some of the others, but we are all happy to get the opportunity to play,” said Dema. “Many of our players will be playing on the international stage for the first time, so this will be a good experience for team to play against sides like India, Bangladesh and Nepal.”

Bhutan captain Sonam Gaki Pelzom echoed her coach’s words, saying, “We came here with a mindset of giving 100 per cent. The results are of course there, but they are not as important to us as putting in the effort and trying to play well. Intention is the key for us.”