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AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022 a Big Test for us, Need to Play Top Teams in Build-up, Says Bala Devi

Bala Devi (Photo Credit: AIFF)

Bala Devi (Photo Credit: AIFF)

Bala Devi said India women's football team was improving but they will only know their level if they play the top teams.

Indian women's football team striker Bala Devi has insisted on regularly playing top teams in the run-up to the 2022 AFC Asian Cup if the country is to do well in the tournament it will be hosting.

The 30-year-old Bala Devi, who became India's first woman footballer to play in top-flight European league when she signed with Scottish giants Rangers in January, termed the continental event a tough test for her team.

"To be honest, we don't know what level all the teams are at. We are improving but only when we play countries in the top 25 of the rankings will we know if there is any chance of us matching them," Devi was quoted as saying in Asian Football Confederation's website.

"The Women's Asian Cup will be a big test for us, and we hope we can prepare for that together."

India has emerged a destination of top football events in recent times, with the country also hosting the U-17 Women's World Cup next year.

"(The U-17 World Cup) will draw a lot of eyeballs towards women's football," she said.

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"The tournament will be widely televised and with India hosting it, many will come to the stadiums, for sure. That would be a huge fillip and that would be followed by India hosting the 2022 Women's Asian Cup."

This is after India hosted the U-17 men's World Cup in 2017.

"We are slowly gathering a lot of interest and hopefully we will now consistently hit the top 10 rankings of Asia, which I think is possible.

"The situation is fast changing ? the Indian Women's League is having its impact, the U-17 World Cup will have its impact, and the 2022 Asian Cup will impact everyone for sure."

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The Indian women's team is currently ranked 55th in the world and 11th in Asia and Bala Devi was asked about World Cup qualification prospects.

"(Qualifying for 2023) would be a huge boost. For the men's or the women's team to qualify for the senior World Cup is the ultimate dream for everyone involved in football and all the fans of football in the country," she said.

"It would be huge for the league, for the future generations and for many more girls to take up football."

Devi, who is the current top scorer for the national women's team with 52 goals in 58 games since 2010, also spoke about her Rangers experience.

"In terms of skill it is fine, but in terms of speed and movement off the ball and the physical play, it is at a completely different level. Unfortunately, everything has stopped since March, but we hope when its back we will be back to our best in training and matches.

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"I have been well looked after by the club and my teammates. There are also lots of Indian families here. 'Mr Singh's' is a very famous restaurant in Glasgow just a few minutes from my house."

Devi is confident that the two major events will boost the women's game's profile in India.