The Indian U-19 National Team will face hosts Saudi Arabia in their opening encounter of Group D of the AFC U-19 Championship Qualifiers at the Prince Mohammad bin Fahad Stadium in Dammam, Saudi Arabia tomorrow (November 4, 2017). The kick-off for which is slated at 21.35 IST.
Riding on the “positive experience” of the recently concluded FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, India U-19 head coach Luís Norton de Matos said in the Official Pre-Tournament Press Conference that India will be looking to make an impact, whilst continuing the process of “building football in the next generation”.
“It is very important to continue the process of developing football in the set of boys that have been provided post the World Cup. We will be looking forward to give all the teams a tough fight and aim for a win”, Matos said.
“We will fight till the very end in our upcoming matches, but at the same time we respect our opponents and we know that our opponents have the necessary tools to hurt us. We will have to be focused and stay on our toes throughout the entirety of the matches.”
“We aim to play against the best and we are drawn in a group that have some of the best youth teams in Asia. Against Saudi Arabia, it will be a very tough clash and the fact that they will be playing at home will add to that”, he added.
Comprising of a mixture of players from the Indian U-17 World Cup Team and India’s U-19 team which played in the SAFF U-19 Championship in Bhutan, the Indian U-19 National Team has been pitted in Group D alongside hosts Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Turkmenistan.
“The set of players that we have are special and some of the boys who were part of the FIFA U-17 World Cup are in the Indian U-19s, which make it a very special experience of them of playing against some of the best youth teams of Asia.”
“We are preparing for the future and through the process the players are bound to grow with the experience that they will get throughout”, Matos quipped. “The FIFA U-17 World Cup proved that the new generation can follow football and we wish to capitalize on this growth.”
In their preparation for the AFC U-19 Championship Qualifiers, India had an exposure tour of Qatar wherein the colts played against Qatar U-19s and Al-Gharafa Club, losing 1-0 against the former and defeating 3-1 the latter. “The exposure tours helped us in our preparation for the Qualifiers as they gave us time for team chemistry to build both on and off the field. Our strength is our unity and if we aim to play as a single unit in the upcoming matches”, Matos informed.
Meanwhile, the Head Coach of Saudi Arabia Khalid Alatawi gave credit to India and said, “India are one of the teams that have evolved good with time and they (India) have made good progress. They (India) are quick on the ball and will be tough opponents tomorrow.”