It’s a story of two underdogs as Jharkhand take on Arunachal Pradesh in the Sub-Junior Girls’ National Football Championship 2019-20 Final at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack on Thursday, June 20.
It has been a long and arduous road to the final for both the sides, and they have rightfully earned their shot at the title. On the eve of their crucial match, let’s take a look at what the two teams have to offer.
The side from the east has been a breath of fresh air in the Sub-Junior National Football Championship so far, playing a brand of football where they keep it on the deck and pass it around. The fact that they have had to face some difficult opponents on their way goes to show the strength of the team.
Having scored 35 goals and conceded just four in their four matches so far, Jharkhand will be confident of a good show against Arunachal. “Making it to the final is a big deal for the state of Jharkhand. We have played good football, and intend to continue that way against Arunachal tomorrow,” said Assistant Coach Suryaman Pradhan.
Nitu Linda has been prolific for Jharkhand in the tournament so far, banging in 13 goals, something that has put her on the second spot on the scorers’ charts. Providing her support from the middle of the park is captain Salina Kumari, who herself has netted five goals so far.
However, Jharkhand will be missing their goalkeeper Malti Kumari, who suffered a broken collar bone in their semifinal victory against Bihar. Other than that, defender Sonam Kumari and forward Anjali Munda are also doubtful for the final.
“Yes, we will be missing a few players, but if the girls who will be on the pitch can play their game, I believe we can go home with the trophy,” said Pradhan.
These are unchartered territories for Arunachal Pradesh. Never before, has a women’s team from the state made it to the summit clash of a National Football Championship.
“It was a moment of great pride for the entire state when the girls won the semifinal against Gujarat yesterday,” said Arunachal Head Coach Kipa Bharat. “The way the girls celebrated after the full-time whistle was a testament to that.”
“But that is history now. We are completely focused on tomorrow’s game. Jharkhand are a good side, but we also have our plans to tackle the way they play their game,” said Bharat.
While Arunachal have not been as prolific as Jharkhand, they have scored their fair share of goals – 25 from five games. However, the side from the North-east has conceded only two goals in the tournament so far.
One player who has stood out for Arunachal Pradesh is their striker Tallo Ana. Netting 60 per cent of Arunachal’s goals so far in this tournament, Ana leads the scorers’ charts with 15 goals to her name.
“A lot of our game is planned around Ana. She can run her legs off, is a good finisher, and is very smart in front of goal,” said Bharat. “Also credit to her teammates, who create the opportunities for her to go on and score those goals.”
Ana has received ample support from her captain Simran Zeeba, who has been operating in the middle of the park. The lanky midfielder has the ability to hold on to the ball and spray it around, depending on the need of the hour. She can even drop deep to act as an extra shield for the back-four if required – a role that she performed very well in the second half against Gujarat.
At the start of the tournament, neither of these two sides would have been considered favourites to make it to the final. However, both Jharkhand and Arunachal Pradesh have proved everyone wrong with their respective brands of football and will look to give that one final push for the trophy, come Thursday.