Putting behind the uncertainty of the now-lifted FIFA suspension, the Indian women's national team will kick off their SAFF Women's Championships campaign with a clash against arch-rivals Pakistan on September 7.
The Blue Tigresses will enter the sixth edition of the competition as the defending champions. The side have won all five previous editions of the SAFF Women's Championships.
Going into the much-anticipated clash, head coach Suren Chettri underlined in a press conference that defending the championship is much more of a challenge than winning it. The gaffer stressed:
"To win a championship is easier compared to defending a championship."
India will miss a few important players owing to their club commitments in foreign countries. Speaking about the squad, Chettri said:
"Yes, we are missing some good players. But we have some quality players on the team as well. Defending the championship will be a challenge, but we're confident."
We've had less time to prepare but we're confident: Indian women's national team skipper Ashalata Devi
Skipper Loitongbam Ashalata Devi, who was also present at the press conference, stated that although the national team hasn't had much time to prepare, they are confident of sealing the title yet again. She said:
"This tournament is important for us and we are the defending champions. Though we've had less time to prepare, we're confident that we can win the title this year too."
"The suspension was temporary and we now want to forget it. We just want to focus on the championship."
After facing Pakistan in their opening game, the Blue Tigresses will lock horns with the Maldives and Bangladesh on September 10 and September 13, respectively.
India's squad for the SAFF Women's Championships
Here is India's 23-member squad for the SAFF Women's Championships:
GOALKEEPERS: Aditi Chauhan, Maibam Linthoingambi Devi, Sowmiya Narayanasamy.
Defenders: Sweety Devi, Ritu Rani, Ashalata Devi, Ranjana Chanu, Manisa Panna, Michel Castanha, Juli Kishan, Santosh.
Midfielders: Anju Tamang, Priyangka Devi, Martina Thokchom, Sandhiya Ranganathan, Kashmina, Ratanbala Devi.
Forwards: Dular Marandi, Apurna Narzary, Soumya Guguloth, Renu, Kiran Pisda, Dangmei Grace.
Head coach: Suren Chettri.