Asian Games: Footballers face Korean challenge

Incheon: All but assured of a maiden quarterfinals berth in the Asian Games, a buoyant Indian women's football team will be put through a litmus test when it takes on host South Korea in its second Group A match here today.

The Indians had demolished Maldives 15-0 in the opening match, scoring at will on either half virtually spending the entire 90 minutes in the opposition half. But in South Korea, the twice SAFF Champions will face a much sterner opposition and head coach Tarun Roy is well aware of that.

"I have watched them play against Thailand and they are very attacking team," Roy said. "They play a high line and their full backs overlap at every instance. They are like wingers. To negate that threat we need to play smart and mark them tightly. We will look to pounce on the counter and play deep with five defenders.

I am mulling a 5-4-1," he said. The bad news is that Tuli Goon has picked up an injury and will be out for at least a week and Suprava Samal will be replacing the former captain in tomorrow's match.

The rest of the heavily loaded backline is expected to be built around the three centre-backs in the form of Radharani Devi, Romi Devi, and Ashalata Devi. Umapati will play left back.

"The rest will be the same," Roy continued. Premi and Bembem Devi are expected to pull the strings in the middle with Sasmita Malik, who scored five times in the
previous match, and Prameshwori Devi playing wide. Bala Devi will be the lone striker.

"The wingers Sasmita and Prameshwori will be tasked to man their full backs as well. They are fleet footed and very agile." South Korea, who qualified for next year's FIFA World Cup in Canada after a gap of 11 years, did their reputation of hot favourites no harm when they thumped Thailand 5-0 in their opening game.

The bronze-medallists of the last Games are ranked 18th and fifth are placed fifth in Asia. India, on the other hand, are 50th in the world and 11th in Asia. "We need to play cleverly but not negatively. Three points is what we are aiming for."

The top two teams from each of the three groups along with the two best third-placed sides will advance to the quarter-finals in the 11-team women's football affair in the Games.

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