India Senior Women’s Team’s dream of crossing the group stage hurdle in the Asian Games 2023 evaporated on the pitch of Wenzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, Wenzhou, on Sunday, September 24, when they went down to mighty Thailand 0-1.
Thongrong Parichat scored the all-important goal in the 51st minute.
Pitted against two of the strongest teams in the competition, Chinese Taipei and Thailand, in Group B, the Blue Tigresses displayed immense combat quality and the ability to take the battle right inside the rival territory but were finally forced to bow against the skills and excellence of the oppositions, who proved too compact and experienced to fall for the bait.
While Chinese Taipei are ranked 38 in the FIFA ranking, Thailand are not far behind at 46. India, on the other hand, are way below the ladder at 61. But never for a moment, India played the second fiddle for the 180 minutes they were on the pitch in their two matches in the Asian Games. It was a success story that would help in their future growth process.
India’s story against Thailand was no different from what it was against the Chinese Taipei. While, after initial hesitations, India attacked relentlessly from both flanks to scare the rival defence, Thailand took the lead in the 51st minute and managed to hang on to it for the rest of the encounter. A better result from this match would have kept India’s hopes of making the next round as one of the best runners-up sides alive, but it was not to be.
If head coach Thomas Dennerby was found sitting on the bench after the match with a blank look on his face, he couldn’t really be blamed for it. His wards did everything possible to turn the tide, yet they remained unsuccessful. Manisha Kalyan, Anju Tamang and company at times looked unstoppable and rattled the Thailand defence time and again. There were moments when it looked like the Indian equaliser was only a matter of time. In the end, the equaliser stayed elusive and the Blue Tigresses returned empty-handed.
At the same time, Indians would have to look at their own mistakes too. The opportunity that Manisha Kalyan had seconds before the half-time whistle after Indumathi set it up for her, had a goal written all over it. She had the Thailand defence at her mercy, yet she failed unexpectedly. It happened in the second session as well. While a panic-stricken Thailand defence looked for cover, the Indians behaved in the most prodigal manner, throwing away chances at rapid intervals. On a couple of occasions, they were caught off-side much to the frustration of the Indian bench.
Thailand were surprised by India’s sudden spate of aggression after 15 minutes and looked clueless for a period. But they didn’t take much time to regroup themselves and stretch the Indian defence with imaginative forays. The fact that the Indian defence could withstand the pressure well was praiseworthy, but some uncertainty immediately after the half-time cost India dear. With Indian defenders out of their positions, Thongrong Parichat was quick to score off a low cross from Pengngam Saowalak, a goal that made all the difference.
India: Shreya Hooda, Sweety Devi, Ashalata Devi, Dalina Chibber, Sangita Basfore (Ranjana Chanu, 86’), Sanju, Anju Tamang, Bala Devi (Pyari Xaxa, 62’), Dangmei Grace (Sandhya Ranganathan, 65’), Indumathi Kathiresan, Manisha Kalyan (Renu, 86’).