Sunshine at last! The clouds seem to have disappeared and there’s fresh snow on the Alborz Mountain Peaks.
There was supposed to be gloom in the Indian Camp especially after the 3-0 defeat to Iran. But it isn’t. The spirit in which the boys played against a “much superior technical team,” gives all confidence.
India take on Uzbekistan on Friday and they are no mean opposition either. The Uzbeks had made it to the quarterfinals of the U-17 World Cup and mind you, there are six players from that batch who would be taking the field against India’s U-19 boys.
“It’s understandable, they will be tough and a skillful side,” commented Colm Joseph Toal, the Head Coach. “But the fact that the Uzbeks come into the match with four days of rest gives them a distinct advantage,” Toal shook his head, as he repeats, “distinct advantage.”
The Uzbeks would be playing their second match in the tournament — the first since the opening day, ie, October 31st. The Indians on the other hand have been playing every alternate day.
“We played Iran a day after our opening match against Turkmenistan. And now a day later, we are to play Uzbekistan. Isn’t it unfair? Our boys don’t get enough time to recover. There are niggles and a day of extra rest would have helped,” Toal finishes it at one breath.
You can’t argue him. You know, he’s speaking sense. “The format of the tournament has been a bit lop-sided ever since Afghanistan pulled out,” he added.
“How is it that we play our third match in five days while others are playing their second on the same day? It’s disappointing; it’s sad; it’s unfortunate. And my boys are bearing the brunt. Football is about recovery — and here we are dealing with U-19 boys. I don’t see any logic in it,” he quipped. “And on Friday, we play the first match which means, we kick-off three hours earlier!”
“But having said that, our boys will be competitive as much as they were against Iran. We will fight despite all odds,” he maintained.
The 3-0 score line doesn’t reflect the true story of the match against Iran U-19. Down by an early goal, the Indians regrouped, thwarted and counter-attacked. And at the moment, the equaliser seemed on the cards, with the Indians omnipresent on the field, the second goal for Iran – off a “harsh penalty” sealed the match.
“There’s no denying Iran are a technically superior side than us. The Uzbeks would also be the same. But I reiterate we will not give up,” Toal maintained.
Given the hectic schedule, the boys tried to relax at the swimming pool and had some light stretching exercises on Thursday.
(AIFF Press Release / Written by Nilanjan Datta)