The India U-19 National Team gears up to face Afghanistan in their third and final match of the AFC U-19 Championship Qualifiers at the Faisal Al-Husseini Stadium in Al-Ram, Palestine today (October 06). The kick-off will be at 19.30 IST.
In an exclusive interview with AIFF Media, India U-19 Head Coach Lee Johnson talks at length about the match preparations, the opponents, the Indian squad and a lot more.
What is your assessment of the Indian squad thus far?
Playing against physically and technically superior opponents, the Indian squad has showed their hard-working attitude in both the matches. However, we are in a learning process and need to give the squad time, whilst exposing them to a competitive environment with high quality matches.
How much of a learning experience has the AFC Qualifiers been?
Playing in competitive environments helps you to develop as a player and the AFC Qualifiers have offered us just that. The exposure that the players get when playing against some of the best teams in Asia is irreplaceable. High-quality matches and experience helps to develop match intelligence in you which is imperative for any football player.
How do you assess your opponents, Afghanistan?
We have first-hand knowledge of Afghanistan as we have played and defeated them before. However Afghanistan will be playing for pride and that could make things difficult for us. We need to be switched-on throughout the course of the match, if we need to salvage something from the match.
Given that the Indian squad had earlier defeated Afghanistan in the SAFF Championship, how much of a mental edge will it give the team?
It would certainly give us a mental edge. However, at the same time, we respect our opponents and acknowledge the fact that they possess technically good players to cause us problems. We have to be focused and concentrate on the game at hand. We need to play to our potential and win.
(Report & Photo courtesy AIFF Media)