The India U-19 national team may not wear the favourites tag in their Group ahead of the AFC U-19 Championship Qualifiers which kicks-off on Friday (October 4, 2013) but they can surely roll back time to draw a lot of inspiration from the fact that the present bunch had come agonisingly close to qualifying in the Quarterfinals of the AFC U-16 Championships last year in Tehran.
In a match they should have won, the Indian U-16 National Team narrowly went down to eventual champions Uzbekistan, losing 2-3 in their first Group D encounter where they later held Syria and China to goalless and 2-2 draws respectively.
“It’s a tough Group no doubt and there is no denying that we are not the favourites,” Toal told reporters at the Pre-Tournament Press Conference here on Thursday (October 3, 2013).
“We haven’t played Qatar in the recent past and it would be an interesting battle. They are a very good side and we have to put our best foot forward. We have a young side with really good players who have been doing well as a unit. Let’s hope for the best,” added Toal.
In a Group that boasts of FIFA U-20 World Cup quarterfinalists Uzbekistan, hosts and 2012 AFC U-19 Championship Finalists Qatar, Turkmenistan and Nepal, the Boys in Blue will have to put together a string of good results which has been eluding them in spite of good individual-match performances in the biennial continental meet.
“We have been very competitive in AFC Tournaments. We have had some very good individual results but have failed to put together a series of wins,” Toal told www.the-aiff.com.
“We will try to put together a series of good performances again over the next ten days and there is no denying that it’s a tough group we are in. We have to put our best foot forward,” he added.
The Indian U-19 Team, comprising of AIFF’s Elite Academy Boys based in Goa, can take confidence from the fact that since February 2013 they have been on an unbeaten run winning 23 Friendly matches out of 26.
Apart from outwitting I-League outfit Salgaocar, and Goan heavyweights Vasco SC, the Boys impressed one and all last August with their adventures in China where they beat the Chinese U-17 National Team to a pulp scoring 10 goals in two Friendlies. This was part of their Exposure Trip ahead of the all-important AFC meet. The Boys also held Shanghai City Games U-19 Team to a 2-2 draw in the first match.
But certainly, AFC Qualifiers is a different ball game altogether and Toal is aware of that.
“The fact that we have been doing well in the matches we have played coming into the Tournament will give a Boys the confidence needed. But AFC Qualifiers will be much tougher and competitive,” Toal maintained.
“Certainly results are not everything for age group teams but you don’t have good players in a poor team. We have some very good players which reflect that we are good as a Team too. Now we have to translate that form here,” Toal stated.
India’s opponents and hosts Qatar, on the other hand, are on a high after their 2-1 double at home against the Greece U-19 outfit last week.
“We have had good Exposure Trips in Spain and Tunisia from July before playing Greece at home last week,” Qatar Coach Felix Sanchez told reporters here.
“We played the Spain U-19 Team in Spain apart for playing the Australian U-19 side at the same venue. It was a great learning experience for the Boys,” he added.
The match at the Al Arabi Stadium kicks-off at 9:30 PM IST on Friday (October 4, 2013).
(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)