The Indian U-17 women’s football team lost 0-3 to Sweden in their opening match of the three-nation international tournament here but head coach Thomas Dennerby says he was “proud” of his players with the way they had fought against a strong opponent.
“We know Sweden are a strong team in Europe and everybody knows their senior team won the bronze medal at the World Cup this year. I’m definitely proud of the girls and we created some really good scoring chances. Maybe the accuracy wasn’t enough in the final moments, but it’s something we are working on,” Dennerby said.
It has been less than two months since he took charge as head coach and Dennerby said the players were adapting to a new system.
“You can start to see — in all departments — defence, midfield, attack, that the girls are adapting more and more to what we want and are searching for. The vision is long-term and they are trying to adapt,” said the Swede.
“With a new coach, it takes a little time for players to see what he is looking for. I think they are definitely doing very good at trying to follow the team’s plans,” he added.
Dennerby talked about the importance of playing quality opposition and the players getting used to it.
“You need to get used to playing against quality opposition. I can try to tell the girls when they have training that you need to reach this level with strength and conditioning, first touch. etc. But the best way to learn is doing it on the pitch and to understand in-game situations.”
In the match on Friday, Sweden took the lead as early as the fourth minute from the spot. In the second half, the Swedish attackers were kept mostly at bay by the home side’s backline and India winger Sumati Kumari caused a lot of problems for the opposition defence, running in on goal and putting in some dangerous crosses.
Dennerby said the team got “better and better” as the match progressed.
“Maybe we showed a little bit too much respect in the beginning and were a little bit anxious in the first 5-6 minutes. However, we became better and better. The second half was definitely good. We were compact and didn’t let Sweden create many chances. We have work to do but from our point of view, it was a good start because we played a really good team.”
Talking about the team’s style of play, Dennerby made it clear that he wants the players to develop a fluid and passing system, and games such as the one against Sweden will make them “more and more comfortable” on the ball.
“I want my players to learn to play from behind and have a passing game. There will be some errors when you’re trying to build from the back and sometimes players, when they are stressed, choose to take the longer kick when they have the chance to play a better pass.
“With time, they will get more and more comfortable to play games like this and hopefully we can bring that stress of kicking the ball away from their shoulders,” he concluded.
India play against Thailand in their next match on Tuesday.