With less than a week left for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022 to kick-off, Blue Tigresses Head Coach Thomas Dennerby stated that the Blue Tigresses are “feeling good” ahead of their opening match against IR Iran on January 20, 2022.
“We aim to get into the quarterfinals which is our primary target. If we qualify to the last-eight – anything, and everything can happen. The quarterfinals are a knockout stage, and all teams will be under pressure. Looking ahead, we feel it’s a realistic target that we can achieve. But let’s take it step by step,” the Head Coach maintained.
“We have played different teams, different levels of teams, and different playing styles. We learned in Brazil wherein we played 3 games in a span of 7 days with two days in between – a similar format to the group stage of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022,” the coach opined.
“It allowed us to regain 100 percent of energy, and get back to prime fitness. We have defended well most of the times, but there have been few seconds wherein there has been a lapse in our concentration, and once such a wrong step will be enough for best teams to hurt us badly,” Dennerby explained.
“In the group stage, we play three different teams who have three different playing styles. The match against Iran will be an extremely tough opener for us. We need to be extremely sharp to thwart their counters, and to deal with their set-pieces,” he predicted.
“We have tried different players in different positions. When you go into such a big tournament, there can be injuries. So you need to keep all players prepared, and that everybody stays ready.”
The contingent has been in preparatory camps under Dennerby since August 2021 in Jamshedpur, and have been training in Kochi since the first week of December 2021. The Indian women have, in the process, also travelled to 6 countries in 2021 which included exposure tours to Brazil, Sweden, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Bahrain and the UAE.
“We have had quite a long preparation, and it’s been more than 5 months that we have been together. We have sweated in over 200 different sessions including football sessions, running sessions, games against proper teams, working on different styles, and strength and conditioning sessions. We are feeling good,” Dennerby averred.
Dennerby however, didn’t go deep to name any particular player whom he foresees to play a crucial role.
“For us the support staff, all 23 players are of equal importance. I hope all players are raring to go and make a mark on the field. Of course, we can only bring 11 into the starting line-up. But it also happens what the game situation is all about, and how we need to react to it. Everyone has a role to play, and needs to be ready,” the Coach added.
Dennerby has experience of over 30 years in coaching several National squads with much success. He had guided Sweden’s women’s national team to a 3rd-place finish in the FIFA World Cup in 2011, and a quarter-final spot in the 2012 London Olympics.
He also served as the Head Coach of the Nigerian women’s national team wherein he coached the Super Falcons to the 2019 FIFA women’s World Cup. He also helped the Nigerian women to win the AWCON Award 2018, and was awarded the 2018 Coach of the Year in Nigeria.
Referring to the absence of Sangita Basfore, and Bala Devi, Dennerby opined that “it’s sad for the individuals, but we cannot be thinking much about it.”
“We have around 4 players who have been unfortunately out of the campaign nursing various injuries. There are 4 players whom we couldn’t pick. But as a coach I need to push all my energy on the players who are available, and my job is to support the 23 who are here,” the Coach pronounced.
India have been drawn against IR Iran (January 20), Chinese Taipei (January 23) and China PR (January 26) in Group A of the competition. The top two from each of the three groups, along with the two best second-placed teams from the groups will make it to the quarterfinals.
Even as the four semi-finalists earn a direct slot to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, all the losing quarterfinalists make it to the play-offs for the Continental play-offs for the last possible slot from Asia.