Goal-heavy group stage wraps up at SAFF Women’s Championship

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It’s been raining goals in the 2014 SAFF Women’s Championship so far as the group stage came to an end. Hosts bowed out as defending champions , Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka advanced to the semifinals set to take place on Wednesday.

India humiliated Afghanistan 12-0 on their last group A match and topped the table undefeated on Monday. While the score line was something to gasp about, the talk of the match was how the Pakistani team cheered India on from the stands. The display of first class sportsmanship was marred when Afghan supporters started a heated exchange of words with the Pakistani team. India’s goal machine Baladevi have bagged 11 under her name so far netting four against their 8-0 encounter against Maldives, two in their 5-1 win against Bangladesh and a whopping five in the 12-0 annihilation of Afghanistan.

The Japanese connection of this chapter of the tournament locked horns as coach Tsuki Tate’s Bangladesh took on Maldives, guided by Naoko Kawamoto. Tate clearly had a massive impact on the Bangladeshi team as they were hailed as one of the most improved side in the sub continent by the other participants. Sabina Khatun, Bangladesh’s star striker complimented Tate’s unusual coaching approaches stating how he concentrates more on training hard rather than watching and studying opponents. Bangladesh beat Afghanistan 6-1 on their first match, lost to India on their second but proved their worth by beating a spirited Maldives 3-1 to ensure progression.

Last edition’s runners up Nepal topped group B with ease and progressed to the semifinals for the third time. Nepal started off their campaign with an impressive 8-0 victory over Bhutan followed by a 2-0 win over hosts Pakistan and wrapping things up by beating Sri Lanka 3-0 which served as a decider between the two for topping the table. Sri Lanka’s other matches were stable score lines which saw them beat Pakistan 2-1 and Bhutan 3-0.

While hosts Pakistan had to bow out, they did so with a 4-1 win against Bhutan on their last match after losing 2-1 to Sri Lanka at the opening game and 2-0 to Nepal on Friday. Although Pakistan’s skipper Hajra Khan shined against Bhutan, being instrumental in all four goals, their standout player of the tournament has to be goalkeeper Syeda Mahpara Shahid Bukhari. Mahapara’s six outstanding stops saved her team from further blush against Nepal despite conceding two.

The semifinals are set to kickoff on Wednesday starting with India vs Sri Lanka followed by Nepal vs Pakistan. The final is set to take place on Friday.