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Turkish Women’s Cup 2024: India finishes runner-up after narrow loss to lower-ranked Kosovo in the final


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India’s hopes of winning its first-ever senior title outside the SAFF region were dashed by an injury-time goal by lower-ranked Kosovo in its concluding round-robin Turkish Women’s Cup match here on Tuesday.

While the 1-0 victory, thanks to a strike by Ereleta Memeti (90+2’), propelled 100-ranked Kosovo to nine points from three matches and gave them its second title in a row, India, placed 35 spots above its opponents in the FIFA chart, finished runner-up with six points.

It was the Blue Tigresses’ best performance in the tournament in three appearances.

India’s Manisha Kalyan was adjudged the best midfielder of the tournament for her exemplary display throughout the competition.

It was a do-or-die match for India. For Kosovo, a team, who last tasted defeat in November 2022 (1-3 against Slovenia), a draw was enough, though they did even better.

Seeking better stability in front of its own back four, India made one change to the starting XI from its previous match against Hong Kong – Sangita Basfore replaced Karthika Angamuthu.

India was happy to keep its shape and contain Kosovo, though the epicentre of the battle was quite far from the Indian box.

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India, while sitting on a mid-press on most occasions, chose its moments to impose a high press on the Kosovo back-four, a tactic that yielded several chances and also served to confuse the opposition defence.

Soumya Guguloth had the best chance of the first half and perhaps even the game on the quarter-hour mark, when Pyari Xaxa managed to steal the ball at the edge of the Kosovo box, before playing it to Indumathi Kathiresan, who threaded a delicate through ball between the lines, to Soumya behind the defence.

The India winger only had Djellza Mehmeti to beat from inside the six-yard box but managed to side-foot it straight at the Kosovo keeper.

India’s ploy to pressurise the Kosovo defence worked wonders, with Pyari, the striker, being the chief workhorse. She managed to make a crucial interception at the edge of the area in the 38th minute, an action that required a high boot from Donjeta Halilaj to bring her down.

Manisha showed her class from the ensuing free-kick, curling it around the wall, with the ball destined for the far post. However, Mehmeti produced a diving save to keep it out.

Manisha had another chance when she sprinted down the left and attempted a laced shot across the face of the goal, which was saved by the keeper. Her shot from the ensuing rebound went wide, just seconds before the half-time whistle.

If the first half seemed like a tight match-up, the second half was twice as much. Kosovo looked to implement its own high press, which often left the Indian fullbacks isolated when the ball was played out wide to them.

An unmarked Soumya had another opportunity to trouble the scorers when Manisha sent in a long cross. With all the Kosovo defenders pulled to the near post by Manisha and Anju, Soumya had a gaping goal to aim at but miscued her attempted volley.

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