Manipur challenge for Delhi girls, Orissa face Jharkhand
If first timers Delhi aim to beat the odds against heavyweights Manipur and reach their maiden final, it will be down to who blinks first between Jharkhand and Orissa in the two semi-finals of the 20th Women's National Championships here Saturday.
Delhi have been the surprise element of the nationals with their superlative performance against the likes of two-time champions Bengal and on-paper stronger opponents like Kerala and Bihar.
"We are pinching ourselves," Delhi captain and India striker Jyoti Ann Burret said on the eve of the match.
"It's been a valiant effort for us to reach this far overcoming the likes of Bengal. The team gelled really well and we stuck to a plan. We can draw a lot of inspiration from this effort," she added.
Jyoti said coach Paritosh Sharma's modern outlook has played a vital part in the team success.
"He is a very modern Coach with the latest training methods. He has put in a lot of effort to play in a certain style and that had clicked for us."
Jyoti, who was part of India's AFC Asian Cup Squad last year, has so far scored three goals, including a brace against Bihar.
Jyoti feels the challenge of taking on 16-time champions Manipur is enormous.
"Manipur are a top side. Their record in the tournament speaks for itself. It will be baptism by fire for us. But I feel the fact that there were no expectations from us as such helped a great deal and it will be the same in the semis," he said.
Delhi's whose best finish in the nationals was back in 2003-04 nationals when they reached quarterfinals, remained unbeaten throughout the group matches.
Manipur have not only won all their matches enroute the final but have stolen a march over their opponents in Group A. The most accomplished in the competition have plundered as many as 55 goals conceding only one, that against Maharashtra.
In the other semi-final of the day, both Jharkhand and defending champions Orissa will look to seal a berth in the summit clash. Both the outfits have kept clean slates going into the last-four tie.
(Posted on 09-05-2014)