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New-look India U-23 ready for defending champions Uzbekistan

The India U-23 national team. (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)
The India U-23 national team. Photo courtesy: AIFF Media

There’s no dearth of zeal within the new-look India U-23 National Team who have reached Tashkent amidst challenging climatic conditions for the AFC U-23 Championship Thailand 2020 qualifiers.

“Yes, the conditions haven’t been ideal for us. But the boys have the potential to make the opportunity count,” India U-23 Head Coach Derrick Pereira said in the pre-tournament press conference before India kick-off their campaign against hosts and defending champions Uzbekistan at the Pakhtakor Stadium, Tashkent tomorrow (March 22, 2019). The match is scheduled to kick-off at IST 5.30pm.

“We have a major responsibility, and after AFC Asian Cup, it’s the perfect platform for us to take it forward and we are ready for that,” Anirudh Thapa exuded.

India play Tajikistan in their last group F match on March 24. The group champions of all the eleven groups along with four best second-placed teams will qualify to the finals which are slated to be held in Thailand in January 2020.

Pereira also mentioned that significance of the friendly against Qatar before coming to Tashkent.

“We had a good competitive game against Qatar and the boys have learnt a lot from the game. Hopefully, we can execute the lessons on the pitch tomorrow.”

The team is bolstered by the presence of not less than nine boys who had represented the nation in the FIFA U17 World Cup in 2017. Pereira mentioned: “We, as a nation are on a rise right now. We are preparing for the future. We have a few players who played in the U17 World Cup, as well as a few senior players who played in the AFC Asian Cup this year. Collectively, we’re working together and we are up for the challenge.”

Ljubinko Drulovic, Uzbekistan head coach cleared his intention of scoring more goals and finishing the group at the top.

“We want to score as many goals as possible and win the matches. We want to finish the group at the top nonetheless.”

“We know both of the matches are going to be very tough. But it is more to focus on our game rather than our opponents. We have information about our opponents. But we need to implement our strategy on the pitch,” Pereira added.

(AIFF Media)