Defending champions India will clash with Nepal in the final of the women's football event of the South Asian Games (SAG) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Shillong on Monday.
India finished second in the group stages with eight points out of a possible 12 -- courtesy two goalless draws against Nepal and the Maldives and thumping 5-0 and 5-1 wins over Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, respectively.
However, Nepal will pose a difficult challenge for the attacking force of the hosts as they are yet to concede a goal in the championship, let alone be defeated.
The Indian attack has scored 10 goals in four matches with an average of 2.5 strikes per game.
Onus on the midfielders
Head coach of the Indian team Sajid Dar, fully aware of the challenge, said in a release: "The team has to be on their toes throughout the match if they are to win the gold medal. It will be a test of our focus and concentration as Nepal have a tendency of stretching their opponents to their limits."
"Although we respect them as opponents, we will play for a win and our goal is the gold medal. We also have to take our chances against Nepal, the inability to do so can land us in trouble," Dar added.
The men's U-23 head coach Lee Johnson wished the Indian women's team success.
"We have been keenly following their matches. Our best wishes stay with them. Go out and do it. Give your best shot," Johnson said.
Narayan Das who captained India in the semi-final against Bangladesh congratulated the Indian women's team for their display.
"Keep up the good show. Our best wishes stay with you. You have made us proud through your victories. Our best wishes. Get the gold," he said.
"Thanks for their wishes. We will try our best," Dar said.
"Nepal have some speedy forwards and that is one of their biggest strengths," defender Umapati Devi said.
"They will look to catch us off guard with counter-attacks as they had done in our last match," she added.
The onus also lies on the Indian midfield to disrupt Nepal's counter-attacks and initiate their own. The experienced Bembem Devi agrees to this and says: "They (Nepal) have got some good technical players in their midfield. But we stay confident and will give it our all in the finals."
"It will be a proud moment for every Indian player if we win the gold medal in front of our home crowd which has been stellar in supporting us throughout our South Asian Games campaign."
"It does not matter if we have dominated in the tournament so far. It now boils down to the final," Bembem concluded.