Keeping an eye on the preparation of the AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers slated to be held later this year, the India U-15 National Team departed for Italy for an exposure tour where they will be playing against the likes of USA, Mexico, and Slovenia in the 2019 Torneo delle Nazioni Città di Gradisca d’Isonzo in Gradisca, Italy.
Boys born on or after January 1, 2014 are a part of the group, and are being coached by Bibiano Fernandes, who had guided the U-15 colts to the quarterfinals of the AFC U-16 Championship in Malaysia 2018. They were a match away from a direct qualification into the FIFA U-17 World Cup, but eventually went down to Korea Republic by a solitary goal.
“We had good success with the previous batch, and are looking to build a similar setup this time too,” Bibiano said. “USA, Mexico, and Slovenia are big teams. It will be good for the boys to play against such developed sides. We conducted trials throughout the country and scouted boys from different parts like Kohlapur, Goa, Kerala, Mizoram, Manipur,” he added.
The coach believes that although his team is shaping up well, the boys still need to work on their basics.
“We still have to work on the basics on a few areas. But the boys are learning quickly,” said Bibiano. “From having the previous team to building a new one, it’s been quite a learning curve for me as a coach as well.”
Bibiano mentioned that with the previous batch having practiced alongside each other for a long time, it facilitating building formidable a team chemistry.
“The previous team was together for quite some time, so they were already ready. Right now, we are still looking for some positions,” Bibiano informed. “We have called up more boys who will be joining us after this tournament.”
Six boys from last season’s U-16 team including Rohit Danu, Vikram Partap Singh, Gurkirat Singh were part of Indian Arrows’ Hero I-League campaign in the 2018-19 season. Danu went on to score four goals, becoming the youngest-ever goal-scorer in I-League history, while Vikram netted one.
Torneo delle Nazioni – India’s Group Stage Fixtures
April 28: USA v India
April 29: Mexico v India
April 30: Slovenia v India