Eyes on the final | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 02, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:41 AM, January 02, 2017

Eyes on the final

Women take on Maldives in semifinal today

Bangladesh women's football team are looking to confirm their maiden final berth in the SAFF Women's Championship when they take on Maldives in the second semifinal at the Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri today.

The match will get underway at 7:30pm (BST) after holders India and runners-up Nepal face off in the first semifinal at the same venue.

Advancing to the final of the regional women's championship had thus far proved to be an insurmountable hurdle for Bangladesh, who were eliminated from the semifinals twice after losing to Nepal both times. However this time the final seems like a realistic target, especially after impressive performances in group-stages against Afghanistan and India.

Bangladesh made light work of foreign-player-studded Afghanistan with a 6-0 win before holding hosts India to a goalless draw, thereby emerging group champions and avoiding Nepal in the last four meeting.

Bangladesh are regarded as favourites against Maldives, whom they defeated twice in two previous meetings. The women in red and green handed the islanders a 3-1 defeat in the 2014 SAFF Women's Championship in Islamabad and beat them 2-0 in the South Asian Games in India in February last year.

Maldives confirmed the semifinal after beating Sri Lanka 5-2 and Bhutan 3-1 in their group matches even though they suffered a 0-9 defeat against Nepal in the other group match. 

Definitely holding mighty India to a goalless draw in group stages will give Bangladesh a psychological edge against Maldives and they will be trying to come out of their defensive strategy, which they employed against India, in an attacking display against Maldives.

Coach Golam Rabbani Choton will be banking on captain-cum-striker Sabina Khatun, who slotted five goals against Afghanistan, for the goods in front of goal. Sabina's experience of playing in Maldives league should come handy in that regard.

Another attacker who played a key role against Afghanistan was under-16 team's captain Krishna Rani Sarker, who set up three goals for Sabina. Goalkeeper Sabina Akter also put in a stellar performance against India and has kept a clean sheet in both matches so far. Another impressive performance from her would definitely go a long way in making Bangladesh's dream of qualifying for the final come true.

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