With just a day to go for the SAFF U-15 Championship to get underway, India Head Coach Bibiano Fernandes stressed on the importance of having a side that has played alongside each other for a prolonged period of time.
The India U-15 side has just returned from an exposure tour to Thailand, where they won all their matches. Speaking ahead of India’s SAFF U-15 opener against Nepal, Fernandes said, “We have been playing together since February, and the team that performed in Thailand was more-or-less the core team, and they did well.”
The India gaffer further went on to state that his side will take it game-by-game. “We do not believe in singling out any opponents. We will go about this tournament one game at a time,” he said.
India U-15 captain, Anish Mazumder, explained that it is a thrilling moment for him to play in Kalyani, a ground, where he has grown up training on.
“It’s great that I’ll be able to represent my country in my home ground. We have practiced long and hard for this moment, and we will give it our all,” said Mazumder.
Nepal coach Salil Kumar Shrestha regards his opponents India as one of the stronger teams in the competition.
“We have played some friendlies against local teams, so we have had a decent build-up to the tournament,” said Sreshtha. “But our first match is against a strong team like India, so we would have to be on our guard. It will be a tough match.”
The match between Nepal and India is set to kick off at 12 noon, at the Kalyani Stadium, on Wednesday, August 21. It can be streamed live here: https://mycujoo.tv/video/south-asian-football-federation?id=72970
SRI LANKA VS BHUTAN
The second match of the SAFF U-15 Championship between Sri Lanka and Bhutan gets underway at 3 pm IST.
Sri Lanka will be playing in the rain-drenched conditions in Kalyani, something that they are unfamiliar with. However, their objective is still to make their first-ever SAFF U-15 Final.
“The weather conditions may be a bit of an issue for us, as my boys are not used to playing in wet conditions,” said Head Coach K Aruna Sampath. “But we all have to play on whatever conditions we are given.”
The Lankans also regard hosts India as one of the stronger teams in the tournament. “I think India are one of the stronger teams in this competition. They have been doing well in the other age groups as well. But we will try to reach the final for the first time,” Sampath said.
Bhutan, who have won just one title so far, have come to the SAFF Championships with the aim of winning it and drawing level with India and Bangladesh, who have won two titles each.
“We have come here to be champions. There are some very tough opponents, but anything can happen on the pitch, so we would hope for the best,” said Bhutan Head Coach Atsushi Nakamura.
Defending champions Bangladesh have also given their statement of intent, as Head Coach Md. Mahboob Alam stated that they want to win their third title and go one step ahead of India.
“We are coming here as the champions, and of course, we want to retain the title this time around as well,” said Mahboob Alam.