Dennerby sets new target on eve of return tie against Kyrgyz Republic

BISHKEK, KYRGYZ REPUBLIC: Having registered a comprehensive victory over the hosts in the first game of the AFC Olympic Qualifiers Round 1, India hope to carry on the momentum into the second leg to be played on Friday, April 7, 2023, at 7.30 pm IST.

After a long drought without a win, the Blue Tigresses opened their account for the year with a 5-0 win against the Kyrgyz Republic in the opening game at the Dolen Omurzakov Stadium on Tuesday, April 4. With four different goalscorers finding the net, it seemed like a pressure valve had been released.

Even inside the Blue Tigresses training after the game, the mood seemed to have lifted, jokes were more easily cracked and a free-flowing energy that had previously seemed contained. At the last training session before the second game, Thomas Dennerby encouraged the players to keep their smiles up but also set a new target for the encounter.

“In the first game we were desperate for goals, because we had gone in without many of our big goalscorers,” he said. “But tomorrow, I want the team to keep another clean sheet. We will get chances, I have no doubt, but I want the players to repeat their defensive solidity from the first game.”

A win, or even a draw would be enough for India to progress through to Round 2 of the AFC Olympic Qualifiers. India have reached that stage of the competition once before — for the Tokyo 2020 tournament — and were knocked out on goal difference by Myanmar. Many of the players who had played in that crucial fixture against Myanmar — a memorable 2-2 draw — have strong memories of the heartbreak and know that a run of positive results would be good momentum to carry into the second round.

While acknowledging that the gap between the two rounds would mean that a lot could change, Dennerby also highlighted the need to end on a high. “We have been in a long camp and tomorrow’s game will essentially be the last game for this Indian team for a few months,” he said.

“Many of them will go back to club duty, state duty and we will only come together in the lead up to the Asian Games. It is important to leave with a good taste in our mouth and some positive energy,” the Swedish coach said.

The first game also saw a sizable number of Indian fans turn up at the stadium to support the Blue Tigresses, a surprise for many. Bishkek’s many medical colleges are home to a huge number of Indians, and on occasion there have been Indian spectators at the training sessions too.

“It was great to hear the noise and see the girls being cheered on in the first game,” Dennerby said. “Now with the pressure of getting a result relieved, I hope they can put on a show and create some happy memories for all who come to watch us play.”

The game will be broadcast on the Kyrgyz Football Union’s official YouTube page.

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