Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], January 18 (ANI): As the Blue Tigresses gear up to take on IR Iran in their opening encounter of the AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022 on Thursday, Indian senior women's national team head coach Thomas Dennerby wants the girls to play "together as a unit."In the official pre-match press conference held on Tuesday, Dennerby said: "Since I have taken charge the focus has been to play together as a unit -- knowing how, and when to press. We have reduced the number of long balls, and are now focusing on playing through the middle to penetrate."India have been drawn against IR Iran (January 20), Chinese Taipei (January 23) and China PR (January 26) in Group A of the competition that consists of 12 teams. 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.
"The Iran game is going to be tough. We know that they are fighters with a strong defence, playing a low block which will be a challenge for us to score. But I am confident we will be able to create chances. We need to perform well to win," AIFF quoted Dennerby as saying.
"We are happy with the preparations as we have been working hard for a long time. We have spent a long time working together with more than 200 sessions -- tactical, technical, physical. We feel we are ready. Our target is to qualify for the quarterfinals, and we think it's a realistic target," the Head Coach added.
Captain Ashalata Devi who was also present at the official press conference shared her views on the team bonding, which she stressed has "grown immensely playing in the international friendly matches.""We got the opportunity to play against such higher-ranked teams last year which has helped the entire team to grow and learn a lot. The opponents were exceptional technical sides, and it was challenging for us to match them -- both physically and mentally. That has improved us a lot as a team in our preparation ahead of the Asian Cup," she said.
The Blue Tigresses had travelled to six different countries in 2021 for exposure tours to prepare for the AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022 which included exposure tours to Brazil, Sweden, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Bahrain and the UAE.
The women have also 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 team landed in Mumbai on January 13, 2022 and started training the next day onwards.
The kick-off against IR Iran on January 20, 2022 is at IST 7.30 pm at DY Patil Stadium, Mumbai. (ANI)