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AFC Women’s Asian Cup: “It’s everyone’s dream to qualify for the World Cup,” says captain Ashalata Devi

Ashalata Devi
Ashalata Devi | Source: AIFF Media

Mumbai: On the 20th of January 2022, India will start its AFC Women’s Asian Cup campaign. The Head Coach, Thomas Dennerby, feels that the team is well prepared for the tournament considering their training sessions and practice games.

He said, “Everyone in the team is important, everyone has trained well, and everyone is ready. But it always depends on how they perform on the field. Different games require different planning, and we’ll do that when the time comes.”

India played several friendlies last year, with the Four Nations Tournament in Brazil being crucial among them. Thomas said, “We played against different teams, with different strengths. We have learnt that one small mistake can cost you the whole game.”

“In quarter-finals, every team plays their best because they are under the pressure of being knocked out. As of now, quarter-finals are the most realistic target for us”, Thomas explained.

The squad’s average age is 23.13 years. The captain of the team, Ashalata Devi, said, “It’s the responsibility of the senior players to guide the youngsters, both on and off the pitch.”

She added, “We have to deal with the pressure in every tournament, but as a captain, it’s my job to manage that. I have to bond with the team and make sure there is proper communication among us.”

“Working with the senior players and learning from them has been a great experience. I’m sure playing in the Asian Cup is going to help me in my future,” said Shilky, the youngest player in the team.

Ashalata said, “Ever since we were kids, we looked up to our senior players and targeted playing at notable tournaments like the AFC Asian Cup. India being the hosts has allowed us a chance to qualify for the World Cup. It’s everyone’s dream to qualify for it and create history.”

With key players Bala Devi and Sangita Basfore ruled out due to injuries, Dennerby stated that the situation is unavoidable. But currently, his focus is on the players present in the camp.

The Indian team is currently in Mumbai and has resumed their AFC Women’s Asian Cup training, working on technicalities like speed and goal-scoring.

India will face Iran, Chinese Taipei, and China in the tournament’s group stages. Dennerby mentioned that the first game against Iran will be challenging because of their defensive play and set-piece prowess.

“The game against Chinese Taipei shouldn’t be a concern because India beat them in a friendly,” concluded Dennerby. “The final match of the group stage against China will be the most challenging, but team India is ready to face them.”

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