Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Oct 31: Having suffered back-to-back defeats, the Indian senior women’s football will be playing for pride, honour and reputation when it takes on Uzbekistan in their last match of the Paris 2024 AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament Round 2 on Wednesday.
The match at the Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent will be India’s last in this round of the qualifiers and the team is hell-bent on not returning empty-handed from Uzbekistan.
Defeats in successive matches to Japan and Vietnam have dashed the Blue Tigresses’ Paris dream despite giving glimpses of what they’re capable of. But head coach Thomas Dennerby reiterated that when you’re playing against teams of this level, just glimpses are never enough.
“Absolutely, the most important thing for us is to have a better build-up and not give away the ball easily. That’s the main problem. We need to fulfil our roles in the defensive organisation,” he told aiff.com from Tashkent.
“If we have our best day at work, I think we are definitely capable of getting a draw or a win against Vietnam. But some small individual mistakes destroyed that game,” he added.
Following losses to two World Cup teams, India face a rather familiar face in Uzbekistan. The Blue Tigresses played a friendly with Uzbekistan in March at the Pakhtakor Stadium, losing 2-3.
Expecting a similarly tight contest again on Wednesday, Dennerby however, pointed out the biggest difference will be that this time, it’s a competitive match, and Uzbekistan’s Olympics hopes are still alive despite losing 0-2 to Japan on Sunday. Midori Honda’s side had beaten Vietnam 1-0 before that courtesy of Khabibullaeva’s goal.
“We play the host and it’s going to be crowded. But still, we need to play for our honour. We need to show that India are a good team. So I really hope that the girls are ready to fight even though we cannot come to the Olympics next year. But of course, fighting for your reputation and honour should be, I hope, enough motivation,” said Dennerby.
Very little may have gone right for India, but the most positive individual performance has come from defender Ritu Rani, according to Dennerby.
The 26-year-old has earned the trust of the Swede, who deployed her at right centre-back in a new five-at-the-back formation against Japan. India had to re-adjust their backline again after Dalima Chhibber’s injury before the Vietnam match, where Ritu’s decent performance at right-back was admired by Dennerby.