AFC Women's Asian Cup: Quarterfinal berth a 'realistic target' for India coach Dennerby

India begins its campaign on January 20 against Iran in Navi Mumbai followed by its next two matches against Chinese Taipei and China.

FILE PHOTO: India coach Thomas Dennerby at a training session with the girls.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Indian women’s football team coach Thomas Dennerby has outlined that reaching the quarterfinals of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup is a 'realistic target'. India is set to host the tournament in Maharashtra across three venues starting from January 20.

"From the beginning, we have been saying that reaching the quarterfinal is our first aim. Anything can happen if we reach the quarterfinals as all teams will play under pressure in the knockout stages. So for the first step, we don't talk so much about going ahead but definitely, quarterfinal is the first and realistic target,” said Dennerby.

India begins its campaign on January 20 against Iran in Navi Mumbai followed by its next two matches against Chinese Taipei and China in Group A. The top two from each of the three groups, along with the two best third-placed teams from the groups will make it to the quarterfinals.

READ| AFC Women’s Asian Cup: India shifts base to Mumbai ahead to tournament

Senior international and centre-back Ashalata Devi said it was a dream for her to play in the Asian Cup. "This was our dream [to play in the Asian Cup] and when we heard India was finally hosting it we felt all our players’ dreams could come true. Our target is now to qualify for the quarterfinals and attempt to qualify for the World Cup for the first time. World Cup qualification will be historic. This Asian Cup is very important for all of us,” said the 28-year-old.

The Indian team touched down in Mumbai on Thursday after its training camp in Kochi. The team has been together in training since Dennerby’s appointment in August last year.

“We've been together for more than 5 months & had over 200 different sessions of football, strength, running sessions, matches & tried different styles. The team has developed a lot since we began. Hopefully, we can see that when we play,” said Dennerby, who has previously coached the Sweden and Nigeria national women’s teams.

“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 added.

Midfielder Hemam Shilky Devi, 16, is the youngest member of the squad. “I get to play with so many senior players and that can help me. I can share my experience with my u17 batchmates. It’s a good experience to come to the senior team. We have to work harder here,” said Shilky.

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