Ashalata Devi – The whole team is at a very good level and will give their best

Ashalata Devi

The Indian Women’s team will be facing the Brazilian national team next week in what will be a first for the country. Besides the match against Brazil, Chile and Venezuela will also be on the team’s schedule as India prepares for the AFC Asian Cup to be held in January next year. 

The three South American teams will compete together with India in a four-nation-friendly tournament. India’s game against the Selecaos will also be marked as legendary midfielder Formiga’s final game in football as she will retire from the game after an illustrious career.

The Indian National Team has had a busy few months with a lot of exposure tours and friendlies. The team went to UAE and secured a comfortable 4-1 victory before a loss against Tunisia. Following that, they traveled to Bahrain and faced their national team over there apart from Chinese Taipei and won both the games. Following a successful stint in the Middle East, they went to Sweden and faced the likes of Hammarby and Djurgarden. Even though both games resulted in losses, the team showed great promise.

Prior to leaving for Brazil, Thomas Dennerby and national team captain Ashalata Devi attended a press conference. Here’s the transcript from the same.

Ashalata Devi

What is the mood in the camp and how much are the players excited for the game against Brazil?

Ashalata Devi– “All players are very excited. They are a big country and we follow a lot of their players. All the players are happy that we will get to learn from them. We will learn a lot both physically and mentally from the Brazilian players.”

Sangita Basfore will be missing the games due to an injury. How does it affect the balance of the team?

Thomas Dennerby– “Of course it was tough for her and also for the team because she always fights for the team and does the right thing for the team. If you look at her stats, she intercepts most balls and helps the center backs a lot, so we will obviously miss her but we have a lot of talented players in the team who are ready to step up and take her place in the team.”

Will there be a different approach from India given the quality of the team or will it be the same?

Ashalata Devi– “Obviously Brazil has a lot of world-class players and we consider ourselves lucky that we got the opportunity to play against them. We respect them a lot and we don’t take them as easy opponents. We will give our best effort on the field.”

This is a major step up in competition. What kind of result will you consider a success in these three matches?

Thomas Dennerby– “I wouldn’t focus too much on these as we are still preparing for the tournament and have two months left until the final event. We need to find out whether we are doing the right thing on the pitch. The team is going to play three quality games with the first game being against a team like Brazil. We will do our very best against them. Chile and Venezuela are the other teams but they obviously are not at the same level as Brazil. I hope we can do our best. Results are not so significant. What’s important is that we can be a team and give our best.

What is the team hoping to gain from playing against legends like Marta and Formiga?

Ashalata Devi – “We have prepared a lot over the last two and three months and we follow them very closely and we are very excited to compete against them. I think the whole team is at a very good level and all the individuals can give their best. This exposure that we gain from playing against them will be great.”

What will be the mentality of the team going into the game?

Thomas Dennerby– “Every time we step onto the field, we want to win. We will not have any other plan. I have never told my players that we need to win 3-0 or 2-0, but rather to just give our best on the field. We obviously cannot win all games, but we need to have the winning mentality and never give up until the final whistle.

What are your personal targets going into the game?

Ashalata Devi– “We all don’t want to lose, and I’m no different. I will give everything from my side to win the game and perform the best.”

Ashalata Devi

What are the areas of improvement in the team?

Thomas Dennerby– “We need to improve our passing, positioning, and defending. We are working on that. Whenever we play a game, there are things that we need to work on. We are still in progress and improving every game. We look at the games that we played afterward and analyze them and try to get better attacking and defensively. A positive sign for us is that we are finding it harder and harder to find any mistakes or areas to improve and that is very encouraging.

Have you made any changes to the training regime to compete with the higher quality teams?

Thomas Dennerby– “No we have not. The tournament is in three months and we want to be at our best in January. Our training sessions and gym sessions are still intense. We have a couple of challenging games to prepare for. We will be traveling for a long time now, so training will become limited. As the tournament draws nearer, we need to gain peak fitness and keep our legs fresh.”

How do you and the team prepare themselves mentally before such big games?

Ashalata Devi– “Physical fitness automatically leads to mental fitness. That’s what I believe. My team has been working very hard and performing equally well, so we did not need to prepare mentally for the big games separately. We have been preparing for many months and are well-prepared mentally.”

The team has had a lot of exposure and match time in the last couple of months. What have been the on field and off field improvements since?

Ashalata Devi– “There have been improvements in many areas since the last three months. Since then, we have improved in every area. We are focused on the areas where our players are deficient, and we have made great progress ever since. Off the field as well, we have learned a lot from our coach. He has lots of experience and we get to learn a great deal from him. As a captain, I am very happy with the team.

The weather in Manaus will also be an issue. How does the team plan to tackle this challenge?

Thomas Dennerby– “When I went there during the 2016 Olympics, the temperature and humidity were very high. We’ll be traveling a long way. We have three days to prepare and we need to get over jet lag on the first day. It will be a simple day, and then we should get used to the weather. During our two sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, we will work on the defensive game and teach them how to handle the big game. It was a pleasure to be able to go on this tour and it will be very beneficial to us. Everything is good.

Kamala Devi will be back in the team after a long time. What is the environment in the dressing room after her return?

Ashalata Devi– “Yes, she has returned back after a long time, and she is fit and is ready to play in any position that the team wants her to. Everyone in the team has a great bond with her and they all want her to succeed.

India faces Brazil on 25th November followed by games against Chile and Venezuela on 28th November and 1st December respectively.

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