Triumphant they may be after huge wins in the 2019 SAFF U-15 Championship in Kalyani, West Bengal, but Head Coach Bibiano Fernandes believes that India U-15 boys are back on track, and have the AFC U-16 Championship qualification in sight, as they head to Turkey for a couple of friendly games.
“The boys are as ready as they were before the SAFF Championship began. As I have said before this is all a part of the process, and the final target is, of course, the AFC Qualifiers. So it is important that you do not take any match or any tour lightly and as a team, you are always prepared and ready,” said Fernandes.
“The first thing I did after the SAFF victory is to remind the boys that we still haven’t achieved our target yet,” he continued. “Even the boys know that our target is to qualify for the AFC U-16 Championship and therefore the team has already set our eyes forward. Yes, the boys deserved to celebrate the SAFF victory and we did so, but now we are already back on track.”
With the SAFF U-15 Championship under their belt, Bibiano’s boys are now set to play two friendly matches against Keciörengücü FC on September 9, followed by a match against Fenerbahçe Spor Kulübü on September 11.
Fernandes believes that playing the age-group teams of the traditionally strong Turkish clubs will help prepare his boys for the tough challenges that lie ahead in the AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers.
“It will be a different and tougher challenge. We had played the Beşiktaş Youth Team the last time we were in Turkey with the previous batch, and we know very well how good the Turkish players are technical. We are doing a bit of homework about the opposition but at the same time, we will be focusing more on playing to our strengths,” he said.
“I really believe it will be very helpful for our preparations for the AFC Qualifiers. To compete and hopefully win against some really good European opposition just prior to a tournament as important as the AFC Qualifier will go a long way in boosting the players’ self-confidence,” said Fernandes.
The India U-15 side will play the two friendlies against Keciörengücü FC and Fenerbahçe Spor Kulübü, before heading to Uzbekistan for their AFC U-16 Championship qualification campaign, where they face Bahrain, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.