NEW DELHI: Positive results in next year's AFC Asian Cup will be the first step in its long and arduous journey towards a dream FIFA World Cup qualification, feels Indian women's football team striker Renu.
Last year, All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel believed the Indian women's team could qualify for the World Cup sooner than the men's squad, lifting the spirits of the country's female players.
"Such a statement is very motivating for us. Qualifying for the World Cup is our dream. But for now, our entire focus is on the AFC Asian Cup. If we perform well in it, that might help us perform better at the World Cup qualifiers and we will build from there.
Our focus is on improving day by day," Renu said during an interaction.
The Haryana-born player made her senior debut for India in April as a substitution in a 1-2 friendly loss to Belarus.
Few years before that, she came off the bench to score five goals against Pakistan in the AFC U-19 Championship qualifiers in 2018.
Recently, Renu scored the solitary goal as the Indian team secured a morale-boosting victory against higher-ranked Chinese Taipei in a friendly in Bahrain. Speaking about the specific areas the team has improved upon during the recent exposure trip to the UAE and Bahrain, she said, "We are getting great exposure in these matches. We are playing against strong, well-ranked teams. This experience will be very important when we play the AFC Cup as we will face good teams there as well.
"This tour is also helping us improve our speed and physical fitness ahead of the tournament."
The Indian women were on a four-game exposure tour and played two friendlies in the UAE and as many in Bahrain over two weeks.
These friendly matches were part of the Indian team's preparations for the AFC Women's Asian Cup, which the country will host in January-February next year.
When asked how does the team look at the performance of the recent matches, she said, "More than the results, we are focussing on our performance which has been good. We are just looking at getting as much experience as we can from this tour."
A big year awaits women's football in India with the country also hosting the FIFA U-17 World Cup, besides the Asian Cup.
It's a great opportunity for the team to try climb up the ladder and enter the next level in world football, Renu said.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for Indian women's football, in particular. It will provide greater motivation and some invaluable experience. It will give the U-17 girls the exposure of playing at an international stage with the best teams from around the world.
"They will bring this experience to the senior team in the coming years. So, this is a great opportunity to shape the future of Indian women's football."
After the tour of UAE and Bahrain, the Indian team travelled to Sweden to play against Swedish Women's Premier League sides Hammarby and Djurgårdens IF.