The ‘dream’ of India hosting and playing in the 2020 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup is less than a year away and next on the journey is the U-17 Women’s Football Tournament 2019 – set to take place in Mumbai – the ‘City of Dreams’ from December 13-19, 2019 where India is set to face Sweden and Thailand – both nations renowned for their prowess in women’s football.
As the 22-member Indian squad arrived in Mumbai on Monday, December 9, the excitement and enthusiasm in the team were palpable – with the tournaments set to record a number of firsts.
It is the first time India is hosting an International-level tournament for girls at this level, and it will also mark this particular group’s first appearance in the National Team jersey on home soil, with the SAFF U-15 Women’s title being annexed in Bhutan two months ago.
This competition will also be a first for Thomas Dennerby as India Head Coach. Dennerby took charge of the side in November. The 60-year Swede has named his 22-member squad after watching the players in action at the Hero U-17 Women’s Championship in Kalyani, followed by a training camp in Goa.
The 60-year-old UEFA Pro Diploma holder comes with a rich experience of 30 years of coaching in which he guided Sweden Women’s National Team to a third-place finish in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011, and a quarterfinal spot in the 2012 London Olympics.
His last assignment was with the Nigerian Senior Women’s National Team where he coached the Super Falcons in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. He also guided the Nigerian women to win the AWCON 2018, and was awarded the 2018 Coach of the Year in Nigeria.
“It is a very exciting time,” Dennerby stated, before adding that he has been impressed by the hard work put in by his players so far. “It has been good to start learning about the players both on and off the pitch. So far from what I’ve seen, I can say that the girls are very good and have been working very hard. Of course, there are things we need to develop and work on – and that is the reason we are here,” he quipped.
The U-17 Women’s Football Tournament 2019 will see India, Sweden and Thailand play each other once in a round-robin format, with the top two teams qualifying for the final on December 19. Given the quality of the opposition side, Dennerby said the matches will be a “nice start” to understand where the team stands.