The Indian women's football team is aiming to make it to the quarterfinals in the next month's Asian Games to be held in Incheon, South Korea. (Indian football teams handed tough draws in Asian Games)
"I think we should qualify for the quarterfinals. I am very positive. Of course, we want to go the distance, that's what everybody plays for but we are setting our goals. Quarterfinal is a must and we take it forward from there," Indian women's team head coach Tarun Roy told PTI in Mumbai on Sunday. (Asian Games Men's Hockey: India and Pakistan in same pool)
Roy, who will be coaching the women's national team for the first time, said it will be challenge for him but he is up for the job. (Terry Walsh confident India can break Asian Games gold jinx)
"This is a challenge for me because this is the first time I am coaching a women's national team. I think I can do 100 per cent for my country," he said.
Indian women last played in the Games back in 1998 in Bangkok where they failed to qualify from their group. This will be only their second appearance.
Roy admitted that the team hasn't played much overseas which puts them at a slight disadvantage but said they would improve their ranking in the next couple of years.
"We had not participated in any international games. Only in the SAFF Cup where we won the gold medal. It is slightly a drawback for the Indian women's team we have not played so much abroad. Even in last few years, national championships were not held. I think you will see the coming years that we will improve our FIFA rankings also," he said.
India are in Group A in the Asian Games along with last edition's bronze medalists South Korea, Thailand and Maldives. As per the draw released by the organisers, India are to take on Maldives first on September 14 as the football competition starts before the Games opening on September 19.
The Indian women's team play against their higher-ranked opponents and hosts South Korea on September 17 before taking on Thailand on September 21 to complete the preliminary group phase.
"South Korea would be tough because they are the hosts. Our first game is against Maldives and that would be favourable for us before we can organise ourselves against South Korea," Roy said.
The team had a 45-day long preparatory camp in Mumbai ahead of the Games and Roy said they have changed their playing formation to 4-3-3.
"We have selected the players from National Championship in Assam. All the state teams played with the 4-4-2 system. But now we have to change that because our technical director Rob Baan gave us the new training schedule and new method of training that is 4-3-3.
I have adopted the new format and we have played six matches, of which we won four, lost one and one draw. But we played all those matches against boys but I want them to play against at least one women's team," he said.
"The 4-3-3 is going to be our main formation. But if the opponent is better then we can change it to 4-2-3-1. I am satisfied with how the girls have responded to it. It is new for them but they have adapted well in 45 days," he added.
The 22-member team is set to depart for China tonight on a two-week long exposure tour but only 18 will make it to the Asian Games. "Now we are going for some friendlies and a preparatory camp in China which will be a plus for us. We have South Korea, Maldives and Thailand all tough teams against us. We definitely want to qualify from the group stage," he said.
The twice SAFF champions are expected to play three practice matches against top teams of the Chinese Women's Super League - Jiangsu Huatai and Shanghai SVT.
Roy said the the conditions in China would be similar to South Korea but it will also allow the players to get used to the food. He further said the All India Football Federation's decision to have I-League for women players would help in finding more quality players.
"The AIFF is also organising I-League for women from 2015, our under-19 camp will also be commencing from next month in Ahmedabad, so I think we can find more good players from there," he said.