India bowed out of the Hero Gold Cup after a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Myanmar on Wednesday at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, finishing third in the group with three points from three games.
Despite the early exit, Indian coach Maymol Rocky was positive while assessing the team's performance, stating that the competition was an important experience. "The team played well, I believe," she said.
"We are still in a developmental process with the target being clearing the second round of the 2020 Olympic qualifiers. Playing in the Hero Gold Cup against the likes of Myanmar, Nepal and Iran was really good for us and was a massive learning experience. Now, we know which areas of the game we lack in and what we need to work on,” she stated.
The coach also thanked All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Government of Odisha for organizing the four-team event. "The AIFF and Government of Odisha have given us such a big platform to play. All the three matches were tough and of high-intensity. It was great preparation for the challenges ahead."
Coach Maymol picked a relatively young side for the Hero Gold Cup, with a number of youngsters donning their senior India colours for the first time. One of them was 17-year-old Manisha, who hails from Punjab, and came on as a substitute in the opening match against Iran and made her first senior start against Myanmar.
The forward talked about the experience of playing in the competition, saying, "It was a special feeling, playing for India in India. All three matches were extremely competitive and for me, as a player, and for the team, they were a great learning experience,” she stated.
Referring to the forthcoming SAFF Championship, Maymol stressed “it’s a must-win for us.”
"We will play Nepal in the semi-final or final, and the match will certainly be a tough one given our recent results against them. We have a month to train and we will leave no stone unturned in our preparation as we look to make it five titles in a row," she added.
Team India will play Nepal in the month of April as well, this time in the second round of the 2020 Olympics qualifiers, where they have been drawn against Myanmar, Nepal and Indonesia in Group A, with only the top team in the group qualifying for Round 3.