With the Blue Tigresses sweating it out in their final part of their preparation leading to the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022, Head Coach Thomas Dennerby spoke at length to www.the-aiff.com about the preparation, India’s opponents, realistic targets, the balance in the side, chances of making it to the quarterfinals and the play-offs for the World Cup, and much more.
Tell us about the preparation of the team, in the lead up to the AFC Asian Cup.
We have been preparing since August. Have been working hard, and been doing 8-10 sessions every week, and we’ve also have a few exposure tours in Bahrain, UAE, Sweden, Brazil. We have played different kinds of teams, some higher ranked, some lower ranked than us. Now, it’s just a few days left, and we are doing the final preparations. We are just fine tuning a few things for the team right now.
There are a number of youngsters in the squad. How are they gelling with the more experienced bunch?
We have a good bunch of experienced and young players who are hungry to prove themselves on the pitch. For some reason, you tend to get a bit more relaxed as you get older — that’s just the natural order of things. So it’s always good to have the younger ones come and push the older ones. But it also works the other way round, as the more experienced bunch can guide the younger ones to do the right things. To not take too much stress before games, how to behave before and after the match.
Football is not just about what you do on the field or on the ground. It’s also about being in the camp, when you are spending all your time with your teammates. So the experienced bunch can help there. Both can help each other.
Is playing at home an advantage?
I think it’s an advantage to play at home — always a good feeling as a player. My experience says you feel more comfortable at home, hopefully that will help us. Would have been nice to have a crowd, but now we know that with COVID that is not possible. But it will still be nice to play at home.
It’s a big tournament for the girls. How are they approaching it?
We take it one game at a time. If you start thinking about too much and if you already think about combinations and permutations, that can be harmful for the players. The staff can do such things to try and find a way that is good for us, but players should always focus on the next 90 minutes. Players should always take it step by step.
When you come to big tournaments, it’s always tough, and it should be. The first game against Iran, I think we have a good chance in that game, and if we do get three points, that will help us a lot before the second game.
But still, if we don’t handle the first game, we need to go into the second game with the aim of winning. We played Chinese Taipei in Bahrain who are a very good team. But we still have a chance of winning, and we can take points. I have a feeling that we can do well. China will probably be the toughest one — technically good players, good combination play, but I hope that we can use the speed we have upfront.
There’s a chance that the Blue Tigresses may qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023. Are you planning that far ahead?
We plan for everything – but step by step. But I think we have a good chance of being in the quarterfinals. But if we get to the quarterfinal, and so does Australia, then we will have the dream to come to the World Cup all the way to February 2023. There will be play-offs to decide who progresses. But first of all, we need to get to the quarter-final, and then we take it from there. If we are there, anything can happen. If there’s a higher ranked team, the pressure is on them to perform.
(Soumo Ghosh / AIFF Media)