The Indian women’s football team has reached the stage of distinction where it should not be afraid of any of its opponents, feels the national head coach Thomas Dennerby.
The highly experienced Swedish coach, who took over the reins of the senior team midway in August, made his assessment ahead of the team’s trip to play an international women’s football tournament in Manaus, Brazil later this month.
The Indian women’s team, which is targeting a good outing at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup scheduled to be played early next year in India, has been shaping up well under Dennerby at its base in Tata Steel complex in Jamshedpur.
The team notched up a few successful results in a series of trips last month to Dubai, Bahrain and Sweden where it played a number of friendlies. The best performance came against the former Asian champion Chinese Taipei, which it beat by a solitary goal.
“We are reaching a level where we need not be afraid of any of our opponents in the Asian Cup. When we beat Chinese Taipei last month I was not surprised. I want the players to believe in themselves and come out strong as a proud Indian team in every match,” Dennerby told The Hindu.
Dennerby said that the Indian women’s team is about to reach the level of perfection that is needed to challenge the good teams in the world.
“On the fitness level we are now touching the stage of high intensity running. This is the stage where the teams reach the higher sprint zone that helps in speeding up the game. All these help in better decision making and greater technical perfection which is needed when we face teams high up in the world ranking,” Dennerby said.
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India, currently ranked 57, starts off against world No. 7 Brazil on November 25, and subsequently plays world No. 37 Chile and world No. 56 Venezuela in the Manaus tournament.
The head coach said that preparations have reached the level where he has been able to identify the nucleus of the team.
“We have been able to identify 15 players as the key performers and among them there are eight or nine who will make the starting 11. But we are still working with some positions now and are hopeful of getting the best players in each position before the Asian Cup,” he said.
About the scenario of women’s football in India, the Swedish head coach said that the players need to play more football throughout the season.
“The most important thing is playing football regularly. In Europe girls start playing football early and they are playing for 11 months a year. With that amount of training sessions and regularity you tend to improve technically and your understanding of the game also gets better. The most important thing is the number of months you are playing in a season,” he said.
“The process of development happens through stages. Sweden, the country I come from, has a population of 10 million and is ranked No.2 in the world in women’s football. You are not born a footballer but you are educated to be a footballer. With all the talent that you have in India you can do the same, I am 100 percent sure,” Dennerby added.
About the team’s preparation for the AFC Asian Cup, Dennerby said the progress is satisfactory.
“So far everything’s going according to plan and I am satisfied with the progress. It is only when you come to the tournament proper that you understand the importance of all the preparation that we are doing now.”
“The real challenge will be to recover well between the games as you get only 72 hours of recovery time. We are working hard on this aspect as we want the girls to regain the best fitness level after each game. All the hard training we are doing is to make the girls feel confident about their abilities,” he said about the Asian Cup schedule.