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Indian Women’s Football Team Lose in The Finals of Turkish Women’s Cup

India’s brave attempts at winning their first-ever senior women’s title beyond the confines of SAFF got swept aside as they conceded an injury-time goal against Kosovo in their concluding round-robin Turkish Women’s Cup match on Tuesday, February 27, 2024 at the Gold City Complex in Alanya, Turkey.

Indian Womens Team in Action in the Turkish Womens Cup Image Credits AIFF jpg Indian Women's Football Team Lose in The Finals of Turkish Women’s Cup
Indian Women’s Team in Action in the Turkish Women’s Cup, Image Credits- AIFF

The 1-0 victory, propelled Kosovo to nine points from three matches, thanks to a skillful effort by Erëleta Memeti, and gave them their second title in a row. With six points India finished runners-up as it was their best performance in the Turkish Women’s Cup in three appearances.

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India’s Do-or-Die Effort Falls Short Despite Manisha Kalyan’s Midfield Brilliance

For her exemplary display throughout the competition Manisha Kalyan of India was adjudged the best midfielder of the tournament.

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For India it was a do-or-die match because nothing short of three points was enough for them to win the cup. Although for Kosovo a draw was enough, though they did even better by winning. The team from Europe last tasted defeat in November 2022 (1-3 against Slovenia).

India made one change to the starting XI from their previous match against Hong Kong to achieve better stability in front of their own back four. Karthika Angamuthu was replaced by Sangita Basfore to slot into the number six role.

Manisha Kalyan Receiving the Best Midfielder Award in Turkish Womens Cup Image Credits AIFF jpg Indian Women's Football Team Lose in The Finals of Turkish Women’s Cup
Manisha Kalyan Receiving the Best Midfielder Award in Turkish Women’s Cup, Image Credits- AIFF

The Blue Tigresses were content to maintain their formation and restrain Kosovo, even though the main action was far from the Indian box. While sitting on a mid-press on most occasions, India chose their moments to impose a high press on the Kosovo back-four, and this tactic resulted in numerous opportunities and also caused confusion in the opposing defense.

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India had the best chance of the first half in the form of Soumya Guguloth and perhaps even the game fifteen minutes in, when Pyari Xaxa managed to steal the ball at the edge of the Kosovo box and played it to Indumathi Kathiresan, who then laced a beautiful through ball between the lines, to Soumya behind the defense. With only Djellza Mehmeti to beat from inside the six-yard box, the Indian winger managed to side-foot it straight at the Kosovo keeper.

India’s tactic to pressurize the defense of Kosovo did wonders, with Pyari acting as the chief workhorse playing as a number 9. She managed to make a very vital interception at the edge of the area in the 38th minute, only to be brought down by Donjeta Halilaj with a high boot. Showing her class from the free-kick that followed, Manisha curled it around the wall, with the ball destined for the far post only for a diving save by Mehmeti to keep it out.

She had another chance when she raced down the left and attempted a laced shot across the face of the goal, but to be saved by the Kosovo keeper Mehmeti. Her attempt from the subsequent rebound missed the target, just moments before the half-time whistle.

Kosovo’s Late Goal Seals Victory Over India in Intense Second Half

If the first half appeared to be a closely contested match, the second half was even more intense as Kosovo seemed to carry out their own high press, which often left the Indian fullbacks alone when the ball was played out wide to them.

India in Action in the Turkish Womens Cup Image Credits AIFF jpg Indian Women's Football Team Lose in The Finals of Turkish Women’s Cup
India in Action in the Turkish Women’s Cup, Image Credits- AIFF

An unattended Soumya Guguloth got another opportunity to score as Manisha sent in a long cross and with all the Kosovo defenders pulled to the near post by Manisha and Anju, she had an open goal to aim at but scuffed her attempted volley.

As the second half wore on, Kosovo kept growing into the game. The Blue Tigresses were reduced to frantic counterattacks as the Kosovo midfielders came more into the play, enforcing control in the Indian half. As a result Erëleta Memeti scored in injury time to win it for her side, much to the disappointment of Panthoi Chanu, who made a few saves in the last few minutes but couldn’t save her team.

The former AIFF Player of the Year, Manisha Kalyan’s first thoughts after receiving the of “Best Midfielder of the Tournament” was that the award wouldn’t have been possible without the continued support of her teammates in the Blue Tigresses.

I feel happy that I received the best midfielder trophy. What made me happier was that I could help my team reach this far and finish as runners-up. But it isn’t an individual triumph for me; I wouldn’t have achieved this without the help of my teammates,” she said.

We played well in the match. We created enough opportunities, but unfortunately, we couldn’t convert them into goals. It was also a learning process for us. We have so many positives to take away from this match. We will use this valuable experience in our next endeavor,” she said.

Head coach Langam Chaoba Devi Image Credits AIFF jpg Indian Women's Football Team Lose in The Finals of Turkish Women’s Cup
Head coach Langam Chaoba Devi, Image Credits- AIFF

Langam Chaoba Devi, Head coach of the team also had similar views on the match that confirmed India’s second place in the four-team competition against Kosovo.

Overall, my girls played well, they fought all out. But we couldn’t sustain it in the last few seconds when they scored the winner. The Kosovo number seven (Erëleta Memeti) is a very good dribbler, something we discussed in the meeting on the eve of the match. But as was the situation, she scored the only goal of the match,” said the dejected coach.

We had so many chances to score, but our girls were not able to convert. Yet, this runners-up title is a big thing because Kosovo are a strong side. All the credit goes to the girls because they played fantastic football throughout the tournament and had a good game today,” said Chaoba, herself a former India defender.

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