As India U-16 National Team gear up to face Jordan in their first match of the WAFF U-16 Championship, Head Coach Bibiano Fernandes looks back at the month-long exposure tour to China, Thailand and Malaysia which he feels has made it clear that “there’s not much difference in technical abilities between our boys and other Asian heavyweights”.
How do you sum up the tour to three different countries – China, Thailand and Malaysia?
This tour of three of Asia’s quickly improving footballing nations has given us an exposure like no other. It has helped us evaluate where we stand among the Asian nations and has given us a clear idea of what to expect at the AFC championship in September. There have been some disappointments result-wise. However, performance-wise we have only improved from when we started this exposure.
What was the highest point of the tour?
The highest point of the tour was the hard-fought draw against North Korea. North Korea is among Asia’s Best youth sides and favourites to qualify for the World Cup. They had even played the previous FIFA U-17 World Cup. In spite of losing the two previous games in the tournament, the boys kept their heads high and earned a deserved draw against the team that started the tournament as favourites. The excellent performance and the emphatic win against Malaysia was also equally special.
What was the lowest point of the tour and why?
Personally each loss we suffered in the tour was a low point for the team. Each of the games we lost were ones which we could have won with a bit more quality and luck. Each of those results made us extremely disappointed. The 3-0 loss against Malaysia have to be the most disappointing as the scoreline never projected the actual story of the game.
What was the biggest learning?
The biggest learning from these exposures have been that we are almost on par with other Asian heavyweights in terms of technical abilities and fitness. It’s just that final bit of quality that we are missing out on and that is what we are striving to add to our team before we leave for the AFC Championship in September.
How much confident is the team at the moment?
The team’s confidence has only gone up after all these exposures. At least some of the boys had doubts whether they could match other strong Asian teams but now the entire team is extremely confident.
India’s fixtures in WAFF U-16 Boys Championship in Jordan stay as follows:
August 1: India U-16 vs Jordan U-16
August 3: India U-16 vs Japan U-16
August 5: India U-16 vs Iraq U-16
August 7: India U-16 vs Yemen U-16