India’s Olympic Dream Ends with Consecutive Losses in Group Stage


The Indian women’s national football team faced a disappointing exit from the second round of the AFC Olympic Qualifiers, suffering a 0-3 defeat against Uzbekistan at Tashkent’s Bunyodkor Stadium. Prior to this match, India had already experienced defeats against both Japan and Vietnam in the four-team group.

The Blue Tigresses’ dreams of Paris Olympics 2024 were shattered already by consecutive losses to Japan and Vietnam, despite displaying moments of their true potential. The match against Uzbekistan was to protect India’s prestige in the prestigious tournament but the result did not go as planned. However, head coach Thomas Dennerby emphasized that when facing teams of such calibre, fleeting moments of brilliance fall short.

The Blue Tigresses, while demonstrating their prowess on the pitch, found themselves on the losing end in successive encounters in the group stage. Their fervent desire to secure a spot in the upcoming Paris tournament was dismissed. These defeats served as remindful reminders of the high standards set by teams of this calibre, pushing the Blue Tigresses to revaluate their strategies and ambitions.

Shameful opening defeat against Japan in the AFC Olympic Qualifiers

In a challenging start to the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers second round, the Indian football team suffered a resounding 7-0 defeat at the hands of Japan in their Group C opener, held at Tashkent’s Lokomotiv Stadium on Thursday.

Despite being ranked 61st in the world, the Indian team displayed sporadic signs of positivity in their performance. Midfielder Indumathi Kathiresan made an early attempt from outside the box in the 10th minute, though it was deftly cleared by the Japanese defense.

India's Women's Olympic Dream Ends with Consecutive Losses in Group Stage
Players of Japan and India going head-to-head at the opening fixture of the AFC Olympic Qualifiers at Tashkent

Indian goalkeeper Shreya Hooda remained active throughout, as the game predominantly unfolded in India’s territory. Japan relentlessly sought additional goals, but resilient defending allowed India to reach halftime with only a one-goal deficit against the 2011 world champions.

Japan’s Yoshino Nakashima netted a brace (17′, 46′), while Honoka Hayashi (53′), Mina Tanaka (54′), Miyabi Moriya (56′), Kiko Seike (73′), and Hikaru Naomoto (81′) added to India’s woes The defeat dealt a heavy blow to Indian morale, especially considering the significant goal difference, as India faced upcoming matches against teams like Vietnam and Uzbekistan.

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Disappointing loss to Vietnam in the second consecutive match

India’s hopes for the Paris Olympics came to an end at Tashkent’s Lokomotiv Stadium as they battled but ultimately succumbed to Vietnam, losing 1-3 in the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament Group C clash. This marked India’s second consecutive defeat, ruling them out of Olympic contention, despite a match left in hand against Uzbekistan. Their previous loss was to former World Cup champions, Japan.

Notably, all four goals in this game were header goals – scored by Huyn Nhu, Tran Thi Hai Linh, and Pham Hai Yen for Vietnam, and Sandhiya Ranganathan for India. Coach Thomas Dennerby made four changes to the starting lineup, introducing Elangbam Panthoi Chanu in goal, Ritu Rani in right-back due to Dalima Chhibber’s injury, and Soumya Guguloth and Manisha Kalyan for added width.

India's Women's Olympic Dream Ends with Consecutive Losses in Group Stage
India lost to Vietnam in its second Group C match of AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Tashkent on Sunday.

Under Dennerby’s direction, Bala Devi assumed the role of a deep-lying midfielder, while Soumya Guguloth and Anju Tamang alternated between center-forward and right-wing positions. India’s primary strategy revolved around counter-attacks, with Manisha taking the lead through her dynamic runs on the left flank.

Despite this, their most promising opportunity arose from Bala, whose deftly executed header from a Sanju corner narrowly missed finding the far post, coming agonizingly close to scoring. Overall, the Indian defenders were not able to absorb the pressure posed by Uzbekistan and were disqualified from the next round with the result.

Loss against Uzbekistan in the third-group stage match crushed India’s dream of Paris Olympics 2024

The Indian women’s football team suffered a third consecutive loss in the second round of Olympic qualifiers, culminating in a 3-0 defeat by hosts Uzbekistan at Tashkent’s Milliy Stadium. This string of losses in Group C began with a 7-0 thrashing by Japan, followed by a 3-1 setback against Vietnam.

Unfortunately, these defeats spelled the end of India’s hopes to progress to the third and final stage of qualifiers for the Paris 2024 Olympics. The team faced a challenging journey, ultimately falling short in their bid for Olympic qualification.

India's Women's Olympic Dream Ends with Consecutive Losses in Group Stage
India’s Manisha Kalyan battling it out against the Uzbek players in the third-group stage match

Uzbekistan gained an early advantage as Kudratova Nilufar netted a goal in the 2nd minute. Although India displayed sporadic moments of threat, Uzbekistan’s Lyudmila Karachik extended their lead with goals in the 51st and 83rd minutes, effectively dashing India’s comeback hopes.

Ranked 50th in the latest FIFA women’s football rankings, Uzbekistan began the game with a proactive approach, with Kudratova Nilufar’s header from a corner kick swiftly paying dividends. Despite being the 61st-ranked team in the world, India might have conceded more goals if not for Shreya Hooda’s numerous crucial saves to thwart the Uzbek forward line.

Takeaways from the tournament

Japan secured their passage to the next stage with an impeccable record of three victories in as many matches, as did Uzbekistan, who emerged as the best runners-up among the three groups (A–C)

Dennerby’s unwavering message underscores the need for consistency and unwavering performance when facing world-class opposition. Success in top-tier international competitions demands more than sporadic moments of brilliance; it demands sustained excellence, meticulous teamwork, and a proper training camp.

India's Olympic Dream Ends with Consecutive Losses in Group Stage F9r6Jd6XgAA soH
The players of the national women team gearing up before the match at the AFC Olympic Qualifiers held in Tashkent

While the dream of Paris may have been momentarily shattered, the Blue Tigresses have been presented with a valuable lesson and an opportunity for growth. The path to glory is tough and they must harness their potential to transcend fleeting glimpses, forging a formidable legacy on the international stage.

In the initial stage of the AFC Women’s Olympic football qualifying tournament held in April, India secured their spot in the second round by defeating the Kyrgyz Republic with impressive victories of 5-0 and 4-0 in a two-legged playoff held in Bishkek. Notably, while the Indian men’s football team has participated in the Olympic Games on four occasions, the Indian women’s football team is still vying for its inaugural appearance at the prestigious quadrennial event.

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Ishayu Gupta
Ishayu Gupta
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