AFC Women’s Asian Cup: India needs to be creative to break Iran’s defence, says Dennerby

The match against Iran on Thursday will be crucial for India in its bid to qualify for the quarterfinals.

Thomas Dennerby with the Indian team at training. - AIFF MEDIA

India will aim to break down a strong Iranian defence with an attacking game in the opening contest of the women’s AFC Asian Cup here on Thursday, head coach Thomas Dennerby said on Tuesday.

The match against Iran on Thursday will be crucial for India in its bid to qualify for the quarterfinals. Iran is the lowest-ranked team in Group A, ranked at 70th in the world.

“Our first target is to get to quarterfinals. We think we have a realistic chance to do that. Iran is going to be a real tough game. We have followed them through videos and they are really a fighting (team),” Dennerby said in a virtual media interaction.

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“They (Iran) have strong defence, they defend very well around their box. It is going to be a challenge for us to score. It is not going to be an easy game. We are hoping that with some creative and good passing game, we can break down their defence,” he added.

“We have a lot of players that can create chances and score goals. We have to be good all through the match.”

At stake: intercontinental playoff berth

A win against Iran will give India a big chance to make it to the knockout stage - the quarterfinals. A quarterfinal berth will virtually ensure at least an intercontinental playoffs berth for the 2023 FIFA World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

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Five teams from the tournament will directly qualify for the 2023 women’s FIFA World Cup while another two will make it to the intercontinental playoffs. Australia, which finished runner-up in the last edition of the AFC Asian Cup, has already qualified for the 2023 FIFA World Cup as co-host.

“It is a big challenge obviously for us, but it is also a very big opportunity. If we qualify for the quarterfinals, we have a chance for qualifying for the FIFA World Cup next year and that will be huge for Indian football,” captain Ashalata Devi said.

“We are hoping that the Asian Cup being hosted in India will give a big boost to women’s football in our country.”

India had beaten Iran 1-0 in 2019 in Bhubaneswar in the last meeting between the two sides.

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