THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

Frenz United test for India U-16

India U-16

India U-16

All India Football Federation’s Technical Director of Academies Scott O’Donell stays confident of an improved showing from the AIFF XI (India U-16) when they renew acquaintance with Frenz United Malaysia A in the Asian Champions Trophy Group A encounter here at the Barasat Football Stadium on Saturday.

AIFF XI, represented by Kalyani Regional Academy boys, are still to record a win after playing three matches, have shipped late goals in heartbreaking fashion in the last two home games after holding fort for large spells.

Also in all of their three outings so far – one away against the same opponent as on Saturday, and the other two at home against Frenz United Indonesia and PVF Vietnam – the colts have not been able to match the intensity of the first half thus leaking goals after the breather.

But O’Donell, also the Director of Coach Education, who was in attendance for the last game against PVF Vietnam which ended 1-1 with the visitors restoring parity in the last minute of injury time, is sure that with every game in this 12-team tourney, these Boys are becoming more professional on and off the pitch.

“These 10 matches are way better for their development than the Friendlies they play throughout the calendar,” O’Donell told AIFF Media.

He added: “In a Friendly it doesn’t matter if you kick the ball out for a corner. But here it does matter because we could have conceded a needless goal and possibly lost the game. You have points on the line. This is essentially all part of the Players development.”

O’Donell was narrating an incident just at the stroke of halftime in AIFF XI’s match against PVF Vietnam where the game’s pace was made to wait when goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh picked up a knock inside hiis own area while collecting the ball.

“Seeing it as a time wasting tactic, the Referee asked one of our boys to kick the ball out.”

Scared of any infringement being committed and not knowing the next course of action, the boys kicked the ball over the goal line for a corner. From the resultant set piece, PVF Vietnam came closest to scoring in the first period.

“They should have cleared the side lines. At least we would not be defending a corner. These boys are so innocent. But at the same time, we will not be committing the same mistake again. Not in the next match, not in any match. This is learning – Priceless at this age.”

Further stressing on how this exposure is helping the Boys to prepare for the next level, O’Donell said: “At this age we are concentrating on developing the boys to prepare them for the National age-group Teams in the short term and for professional Football in the long term. And while we are more concerned about how they play rather than the final results, part of the Players development is to be able to cope with the pressure of playing in Competitions, which is why we are grateful to be participating in the ACT.”

O’Donell gave the example of Steven Gerrard’s infamous ordeal against Chelsea when Mamadou Sakho’s pass rolled under the foot of the Liverpool Captain and Chelsea’s Demba Ba was suddenly running clear to score, to underline that “even the greatest Players commit mistakes, but they learn from it. How? By playing in Competitions where your mistakes have repercussions. The case is the same here.”

“All of the boys learnt a great deal that day.”

The two Teams are at opposite ends of the points table in Group A. While Frenz United Malaysia are occupying pole position with seven points from three matches, AIFF XI as mentioned above have one point to show for from their three outings so far.

“I am hopeful that we will be able to offer a good match on the morrow,” Head Coach Goutam Ghosh opined.

The last time the two Teams met, Frenz United Malaysia beat AIFF XI by a solitary goal from Najob Abdullah in the 63rd minute. But more than Najib, what should keep the hosts on their toes will be the presence of Kogileswaran Raj who has been in fine form throughout the tournament, crowning his good displays with a fine hat-trick in their side’s 6-0 demolition of Home United Singapore in the last match.

“They are very good team. We have to maintain the momentum for the entire ninety minutes. Any slip up and they have the quality to pounce on us,” Coach Ghosh maintained.

The kick-off at the Barasat Stadium is at 18.35 IST on Saturday.

(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)