We’re going to fight, says head coach Thomas Dennerby

By Sruti Chakraborty
AIFF press team

BHUBANESWAR: The head coach of the Indian national U-17 team, Thomas Dennerby, is confident that his charges will give their best at the upcoming FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022 which kicks off on 11 October 2022.

“We are completely focused and hoping that a good performance will take us to the points. We want to be in the quarterfinals, we are going to fight, coaching staff and players together. We know that we are playing against some of the best teams. But if we really have a good day, and the top teams have some weakness, then there’s always the chance that the underdogs will do it for themselves.

“If we can score an early goal against one of these teams, they might get a little nervous or start to overthink and get stressed. So there is always an opportunity and if we have an opportunity, we will take it,” Dennerby said while interacting with the media.

The Young Tigresses are currently training in Bhubaneswar under the watchful eye of the Swedish coach and you can almost feel the high morale in the team with just four days to go before the World Cup begins. The girls returned from their show trip to Spain last week and the coach feels the performance level has risen from what they played during their last show trip to Italy.

“The team’s performance is much stronger than before. Against Sweden, we played a good game, but unfortunately we lost because of some mistakes we made. We have to give our best now.

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“The team is ready now. All my players are excited to get on the field and play. We have been practicing for a long time. We had almost 250 different training sessions in total in the last seven months. The girls are obviously really looking forward to it,” Dennerby joked. “Today when we finally got into the World Cup hotel, it felt like an extra push. Now it is real and we are finally here,” she added.

“In the last few months, we played against the Odisha senior team a couple of times here in Bhubaneswar and we got very good results against them. So if we look at the performance in total in the last two months, I would say that we have made great strides since the beginning of this summer. Hopefully we can do the same when it comes to the World Cup and competitive games,” said the Swedish coach.

Dennerby further stated that the girls, who come from different backgrounds, are now strong as a single unit and have also been mentally preparing for their matches against the USA, Morocco and Brazil in the group league. “When you come to a football team, the different backgrounds don’t matter at all. Here we are all equal, we are here for the same reason. We have a goal to achieve and having it together is wonderful. That’s one of the best things with any team sport. You always share your dreams and goals with your friends.

“Sometimes when we lose we feel sad and happy when we win and we do it as a team all together. And mentally, I think, the girls are quite strong now. I watched when they played against Sweden. Now, we are close to a top team like Sweden, which means we also have the strength to handle the World Cup. That also helps you mentally to see that you can play against good teams on the pitch. It’s also natural to be nervous and we’re trying to mentally prepare them as best we can,” she said.

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India has been drawn into Group A of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022 India with the USA, Morocco and Brazil. When asked about the assessment of India’s three opponents in the group stage, the coach said: “USA have a strong and powerful team and play fast football. They play a very high pressure game, putting opponents under pressure and taking advantage of many mistakes opponents make due to constant pressure. And we have to handle this. How? Well, we won’t tell you that yet,” he said with a smile.

“Hopefully, we have found a way to handle Brazil. We saw them during our tour of Spain because they were training next to us. We saw them come out as a very physical team, some huge girls. Morocco is also a good technical team. They try to build from behind patiently, but we have an idea how we should handle that,” said the Indian coach.

The Indian Colts face the USA on October 11, before facing Morocco and Brazil on October 14 and 17, respectively, at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. Kick-off for all matches is at 8pm IST.

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