NEW DELHI: Indian women’s soccer team head coach Thomas Dennerby has insisted that “we will fight with our lives” to reach the knockout stage of the upcoming AFC Asian Cup and realize his dream of securing qualification for the 2023 FIFA World Cup.
Asked if he is sure of taking India to his first FIFA World Cup for women in 2023, Dennerby gave no direct answer but said that “anything can happen” if his team reaches the knockout stage (quarterfinals) of the Asian Cup.
“Let’s take it step by step. Of course we have a dream, and it starts with us being one of the eight teams in the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup,” says the experienced Swede on FIFA’s website.
“If we can reach that level, anything can happen. I can only promise everyone that we will go out with a winning mentality and make a huge effort. And that we will fight with our lives.”
Five teams from the Asian Cup, which will be played in Mumbai and Pune from January 20 to February 4, will qualify directly for the 2023 World Cup.
Asia got six direct places and two intercontinental playoff places for the World Cup.
Co-hosts Australia have taken a direct place.
Even the losing teams in the quarterfinals will play classification matches to decide who will participate in the two intercontinental playoff spots.
The two best teams in each of the three groups and the two best third-placed teams qualify for the quarterfinals.
Dennerby has been the coach for Sweden and taken Nigeria to the World Cup after winning the African Championships.
Now he dreams of reaching the feat with the Indian team.
“In Nigeria, we won the AFCON Championship and qualified for the Women’s World Cup. I still have a dream, and right now we see India reach the quarterfinals of this Asian Cup for Women. A couple of victories can help us get that winning mentality and get “Everyone believes that we can do it. Football is, after all, a mental game,” said the 62-year-old Dennerby, who took over the team in August last year.
India will play their first group game against Iran on January 20 before meeting Chinese Taipei and China on January 23 and 26, respectively.
He said that the quality of the players in India can surprise people in Europe.
He hopes that more players will start playing in Europe in the footsteps of Bala Devi after the covid-19 pandemic is over.
“I have friends in Sweden and all over Europe who keep asking me about our players, and I keep telling them that the quality we have in India can surprise them all. They have played in Sweden, so maybe doors can be opened for some “We also have to remember that during the pandemic situation, it is difficult for clubs from Europe to bring in players from India because you can not send them on trial.”
“So I sincerely hope that our camp in Sweden can create some opportunities for them.”
Asked about players in the current Indian team who impress him the most, Dennerby said: “We have some players who play at a very good level and players with special qualities. It is difficult to single one out because everyone is special.”
“This is a team match, it is not appropriate to give names at the moment. But some of the girls have been very impressive. I keep pushing them.”