After conquering the SAFF U-15 Championship, defeating Bangladesh 1-0 in the final of the Tournament, Head Coach of the Indian U-15 Women’s National Team Firmin D’Souza has wasted little time and is back to the drawing board for the AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers in September.
In an exclusive interview, Firmin talks at length about the SAFF U-15 Championship, the AFC U16 Qualifiers, the win over Bangladesh, and a lot more. EXCERPTS:
How tough was the final against Bangladesh?
We knew that Bangladesh were going to be the toughest team in the whole Championship and we were preparing for them since we camped in Cuttack, Odisha in July. We stuck to the plan, got the job done and avenged our loss to Bangladesh in the 2017 edition of the SAFF finals.
The team played with excellent shape throughout the final and the defence was told to be compact in an effort to stop their forwards, which we did.
What is your assessment of the SAFF U-15 Championship win?
We wanted to win the SAFF Championship and we did. The entire squad played to the best of their abilities and if the team continues the way they did the SAFF U-15 Championship, they have the ability to be one of the best youth teams in the region.
A lot of these players, possess the talent to make it to the Senior National Team given they work hard and dedicate themselves to the sport.
Is it a special moment?
As a coach, I will revere this moment forever. We were the underdogs against Bangladesh and nobody expected us to win, but we defeated them to lift the trophy. It is a special moment for the players as well because many of these players for the first time in their lives played in front of an intimidating filled stadium and won.
India did not win by fancy scorelines in the Championship except for the match against Sri Lanka.
I will take winning by narrow margins over winning by fancy scorelines any day because learning in narrow margins is a lot more and the players most importantly learn to deal with the pressure.
We are making a team for the future and implemented certain permutations and combinations throughout the Championship.
How important is it ahead of the AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers?
Our primary goal is to qualify for the AFC U-16 Championship finals, and the girls know that. Winning the SAFF Championship is one-step in the right direction towards that goal.
The job is far from over and we have to buckle up and work even harder, if we are to securing qualification. The players have already shown that they are capable of doing that, but the AFC qualifiers will be another challenge that we have to prepare ourselves for.