India will look to move past its nightmare start against the United States of America (USA) when it takes on Morocco in its second group-stage match of the FIFA women’s under-17 World Cup at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Friday.
The Blue Tigresses, making their World Cup debut, were decimated 8-0 by Natalia Astrain-coached USA, with five goals coming in the first 39 minutes of play.
“We stick to the plan that we’re trying to do, whatever we can do in the next game, and if we win against Morocco, there’s still a chance,” said Indian coach Thomas Dennerby, about the team’s chances of making the knockout rounds.
The team do well to not concede early goals and draw from the energy of the raucous home support, which was stunned into silence by the American carnage.
Though the odds are heavily stacked against India, there is still a minute chance of qualification to the last eight.
Dennerby’s side will need to work on its composure and on its passing from the back – something that was not just exposed but punished brutally by the USA.
In its final practice session before matchday, the team trained with gusto, with little sign of any longstanding effect of Tuesday’s drubbing.
India is expected to change from a 4-2-3-1 shape to a 4-1-4-1 formation, enforcing high pressure on the opposition with Lynda Kom Serto at the head of the attack.
The host, which practised triangular passing drills last time, concentrated more on circular passes to keep the formation fluid and the progression of play fast.
But, if Anthony Rimasson’s Morocco presses high, these circular passes may lead to interceptions in counterattacks, bringing in trouble for India like the passage of play leading to Onyeka Gamero’s strike in the game against the United States.
Goalkeeper Anjali Munda is expected to start in goal despite the loss – with the Jharkhand girl playing in the starting XI in the initial practice.
Facing almost a must-win situation, coach Dennerby wants his players to enjoy the moment and not be overawed by the occasion. “I talked with the girls about when I was in the locker room for minutes after (full-time against the USA). And I told them, ‘Girls, the sun is going to come up in India tomorrow anyway. And if we have a sleepless night, we will not perform better,” he said. “I will be there tomorrow morning, smiling, supporting them, and trying to encourage them the best way I can.”
About India’s opponent
Morocco looked defensively strong against a counter-attacking Brazil, limiting it to just one goal. Against India, it is expected to have a double pivot in attack with Yasmine Zouhir and Doha el Madani operating from either side.
“We have worked a lot together, so we want to show the best image of Morocco. The host country is used to the weather here, and the pitch and will also have home fans backing them. Though our team is ready, all games will be difficult because all have different styles of play,” said Rimasson.
In the final practice before the match, Morocco looked at finding headers from set-pieces and is expected to take the long ball approach – aerial crosses from the midfield to the strikers in front – against India’s high-press.