The Indian women’s national team will travel to Uzbekistan to play friendly matches against Uzbekistan and Belarus next month. The matches are part of the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) plan to ensure the players receive match practice in a systematic and regular manner in the build-up to the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup that will be held in India.
The continental championships will be held in the country from January 20 to February 6 next year. Even as the men kicked off their domestic season with the Indian Super League (ISL) and the I-League, the women had no scope for match practice yet. However, a camp was organised for them under head coach Maymol Rocky in Goa in December.
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The trip to Uzbekistan will be the second overseas one for the Indian squad this year. They travelled to Turkey in February where they played three international friendlies. As far as results were concerned it was a disappointing outing. India lost all three games -- 0-2 to Serbia, 0-8 to Russia and 2-3 to Ukraine. Coach Rocky, however, felt that the losses were a great learning experience as it came against stronger opponents.
"Playing against strong European teams will help us prepare for the Asian Cup,” Rocky was quoted as saying by Goal.com. “These experiences will be vital for the girls in these two years. The two months in the camp allowed the girls to get back into shape both physically and mentally for International football."
Though Uzbekistan and Belarus, whom they play on April 5 and 8 respectively, are not exactly top sides in the world, playing them would be better than not playing at all. The women have what is essentially a month-long domestic season which generally comes about in the height of summer. It is fair to say it is not a league but a slightly stretched tournament by all means.
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Despite having loudly announced that the upcoming season of the Indian Women’s League will be held in Odisha this year, the AIFF is yet to announce dates for the tournament — which end up being the only professional competitive outings for players in the country.
"After the pandemic, we have been in camp (in Goa) for almost four months now, and the team is really gelling well together. Both Uzbekistan and Belarus are strong sides, and will provide ample challenge to the girls in the two friendlies," added Rocky while naming the 23-member squad for the trip.
Goalkeepers: Aditi Chauhan, Sowmiya Narayansamy, M Linthoingambi Devi
Defenders: Jabamani Tudu, Ashalata Devi, Sweety Devi, Ritu Rani, Ranjana Chanu, W Linthoingambi Devi, Kritina Devi, Anju Tamang
Midfielders: Indumathi Kathiresan, Manisha, Sangita Basfore, Martina Thokchom, Pyari Xaxa, Dangmei Grace, Soumya Guguloth
Forwards: Renu, Karishma Purushottam Shirvoikar, Sandhiya Ranganathan, Sumati Kumari, Heigrujam Daya Devi
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