Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Indian team is all set to script a new chapter in the nation’s women’s football history when they take on US in their first match of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup which will kick off at the iconic Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday.

The FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup will be the seventh edition of the mega event since its inception in 2008 in which the U-17 national teams of the member associations of FIFA take part. India would have hosted the 2020 edition before it was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Placed in Group-A, Indian side is aware of the tough task at hand. However, coach Thomas Dennerby is confident about the players. As per the experienced coach, the squad is fully ready for the challenge.

Though the Indian side will have the home advantage, it can be a double-edged sword as well. The girls could feel the pressure of representing the aspiration of billions of people in front of a boisterous audience.

Meanwhile, India’s captain Astam Oaron exuded confidence about her team’s chances.

“We are mentally strong and focusing on the current task at hand. We are in a positive mindset and not thinking of anything else,” said Oaron.

The skipper also urged one and all to come to the stadium in large numbers to support India.

“We are in the best frame of mind. We want to show the country that the girls can also make them feel proud,” she said.

On the other hand, India will have their task cut out as USA are considered as a formidable force in women’s football.

However, Indian coach Dennerby is wary of the challenge. He also agrees that the Indian side will be the underdogs in paper against the formidable opposition. However, the coach has a special strategy in mind and as per him the early inroads into the opposition’s goal post can put immense pressure on them.

“It could be anybody’s game if we get an early breakthrough and our girls are up for it,” said Dennerby.

Meanwhile, the entire city including the stadium has been fully decked up to welcome international soccer stars from across the globe. The stadium has a seating capacity of 12,000 which has been painted in colourful traditional Sambalpuri attire. The football posters and banners have crowded the busy Bhubaneswar streets.

A four-layer security arrangement has been made to ensure the safety of players, crowd and traffic management. The inaugural ceremony to be held at the stadium will witness colourful cultural extravaganza.

Notably, sixteen teams will vie for the top honours in the high-octane tournament. A total of 32 matches will be played across three venues- Bhubaneswar, Navi Mumbai and Goa. The final will be played at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai.