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India U17 women's coach Thomas Dennerby: I hope we can play exposure tours

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On May 12, FIFA announced that the 2020 U-17 Women’s World Cup, set to be hosted by India, will take place from February 17, 2021, to March 7, 2021. The marquee event was originally scheduled to be held from in November this year before the ongoing Coronavirus crisis necessitated a change in schedule. 

India U-17 head coach Thomas Dennerby, who is currently in Sweden, was excited to get the new dates and is raring to get back on the pitch with his squad as soon as the situation permits. 

“It makes everyone happy to get new dates.  It is a huge tournament and we hope to get good support from Indians next year. With the new dates coming in, it will help both players and staff to have the right mentality. When you know it is happening, it is time to get back to work giving 100 per cent once again,” stated the Swedish national in a live chat organised by the AIFF (All India Football Federation). 

The 60-year-old has got vast reserves of experience working in women’s football and the AIFF appointed him as the coach after he terminated his contract with the Nigerian football federation. He feels that the Indian squad at hand has got good technical players but they have to improve on the physical aspects and decision-making to compete with the stronger European nations. 

“The Indian FA approached me in September (2019). It is a challenging job, especially since India has not played (women’s) World Cup before. Moreover, since 2005 I have been working only with the senior teams. So (it is) good to be back with the kids. The players are technically good, with good match-reading capabilities. But if we compare with the best teams. we are a bit off on the physical side. 

“The decision-making has to be quicker. If the fastest player on the pitch handles the ball slowly, a bad touch leads to a slower build-up. We work hard to play with a few touches. There are quite a few things to do.

“We have to increase the tempo of the game. Fitness is an important part and if you run fast and pass the ball with accuracy, the job is done. It all comes together. But the important part is the decision-making. Therefore I want to play against high-ranked teams. It helps increase your decision making. You get less time to decide against those teams. We have to help the players speed that up,” opined Dennerby. 

Thomas Dennerby - Nigeria

Thomas Dennerby - Nigeria

The former Swedish women’s national team coach informed that each player has been given a personalised training programme and the coaching staff is closely monitoring their progress during the lockdown. Hence when the camp resumes later this year, he can focus more on the technical side of the players. 

“The delay will at least help us to recover the three months that we are losing now. I hope the girls are starving to be back on the pitch. We will check the fitness levels first (when we get back). We have to ensure that they are in good shape when they arrive. Then, of course, we come to the technical part. After a week together we will be working on the technical aspects and improve the things we need to. We need to gather the momentum that we had in March. We have time on our side and the girls are ambitious enough so I am confident that we will be able to do a good job.”

The tactician hopes that he will be able to undertake some exposure trips as planned earlier against competent opponents. He believes that playing the top teams is paramount to improving the level of the girls and the tri-nation tournament held in Mumbai in December 2019 was an important step in that direction. 

“It is sad to miss exposure tours. It was important for us to play those games against higher-ranked teams. I hope we have another opportunity to play those games in the winter. But if we can’t go out we have to deal with it as people’s lives are important. 

“(But) it was a very encouraging tournament that was held in Mumbai. The first game against Sweden was very good. We had a few good chances. We gained valuable experience. They understood the level they have to reach when they played against the superior European teams. In the World Cup, we will not get seven-eight chances and we have to make the most of the few chances that come our way. It is important for the forwards to have a plan, where they want to place the ball, and then improve their finishing,” expressed the coach. 

There has been a hue and cry over football being played again in empty stadiums amidst the Coronavirus pandemic but Dennerby has thrown his weight behind the resumption of the sport. 

It is good that they started playing. Players love to play in front of a full stand. But players are professionals and they do the best they can in every situation. No one is really sure what is going to happen with the pandemic. In Sweden, they are planning to start leagues in the middle of June and I think it is good (to restart football),” concluded the former footballer. 

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