The Indian women’s football team exuded confidence before departing for Vietnam on Wednesday to play two Fifa International friendlies.

The team won the Saff women’s Championship and impressed in the AFC Olympic Qualifiers round two. They also finished third in the COTIF Cup in Spain this year.

Head coach Maymol Rocky believes that the team has now reached the point where they need to play higher-ranked opposition like Vietnam (34, as compared to India’s 57), in order to further improve. “I think this is the first time that we will play against Vietnam. It’s all about playing against higher-ranked teams so that we can further improve ourselves,” said Rocky.

While the team prepared for the two matches against Vietnam, which are set to be held on November 3 and November 6, the head coach had one eye on the 2022 Women’s Asian Cup qualifiers next year.

“Right now, our efforts are to match them and be better than them. It’s only when we play better teams that we can gauge our strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “Our main aim is to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup. We need to have patience and keep improving at the same time.”

Captain and centre-back Ashalata Devi believes that although Vietnam are a higher-ranked side, the hard work put in by the Indian women will translate into results on the pitch. “Obviously Vietnam are a much higher-ranked team than us. But this doesn’t mean that we can’t beat them,” said Ashalata. “We have been working really hard and improving, so we will be up for the fight.”

Ashalata’s fellow centre-back Sweety Devi feels that the responsibility will be on the two of them to organise the team from the back. “It’s not going to be easy, playing against Vietnam, and as defenders, the responsibility will be on Asha di and me to organise the team,” she said.

“But having someone as experienced as her at the back helps a lot, as she reads the game and instructs everyone accordingly. I think if we all fight together, keep ourselves calm, and stick to the plan, we can get good results out of Vietnam.”

Indian squad of 23:

Goalkeepers: Aditi Chauhan, Panthoi Chanu, M Linthoingambi Devi.

Defenders: Jabamani Tudu, Ashalata Devi, Michel Castanha, Sweety Devi, Ranjana Chanu, W Linthoingambi Devi.

Midfielders: Roja Devi, Grace Lalrampari, Karthika Angamuthu, Manisha, Ratanbala Devi, Ritu Rani, Sangita Basfore, Sanju, Sumithra Kamaraj.

Forwards: Anju Tamang, Dangmei Grace, Daya Devi, Bala Devi, Renu

Head Coach: Maymol Rocky.