Al Khobar [Saudi Arabia], October 1 (ANI): Following the team's successful campaign over the last month, India U-17 National Team head coach Bibiano Fernandes emphasised the need of extending the momentum in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-17 Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers.
The Blue Colts arrived in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, from Muscat, Oman, on Thursday, September 29, 2022, before shifting to Al Khobar, where most of their matches will be taking place. They have been clubbed in Group D of the AFC U-17 Asian Cup Qualifiers, where they will face the likes of Maldives (October 3), Kuwait (October 5), Myanmar (October 7), and hosts Saudi Arabia (October 9).
Being a completely new batch, the India U-17s started off their junior international campaign by lifting the SAFF U-17 Championship in Sri Lanka earlier this month, before playing a friendly against the Oman U-17 National Team, which they won by a 3-1 margin in Muscat.
"The pandemic has been a difficult time for everyone, and it is also a time when we were not able to play many exposure matches. But we have had a good outing in the SAFF Championship and last week against Oman as well," said Fernandes, speaking to the local media in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
"Yes, we have made a few mistakes, but that's what these matches are for. We have learned from these, and have worked on these issues in training, and hopefully we can now give a good account of ourselves in the Asian qualifiers," he said.
Coach Fernandes, at the pre-tournament Press Conference, sounded confident, yet cautious about India's chances against their opponents in Group D.
"I feel that we are up against some tough teams this time, and there will be good competition for places to make it to the finals of the AFC U-17 Asian Cup this time round," said Fernandes.
The India U-17 head coach even went on to say that he considers his boys the underdogs of Group D.
"Yes, our teams have done well in the qualifiers historically, but this is a completely new team, that is yet to test itself at this level. So as far as I am concerned, we are the underdogs, and we will give it our best in every game," stated Fernandes.
India begin their campaign on Tuesday, October 4 midnight (IST) against the Maldives at the Prince Saud Bin Jalawi Stadium in Al Khobar.
India U-17 National Team Squad of 23:
Goalkeepers: Sahil, Tajamul Islam, Zulfikar Gazi.
Defenders: Mukul Panwar, Manjot Singh Dhami, Suraj Kumar Singh, Chandan Yadav, Malemngamba Singh Thokchom, Balkaran Singh, Ricky Meetei Haobam, Shaiza Ngarin
Midfielders: Vanlalpeka Guite, Danny Meitei Laishram, Boby Singh Yendrembam, Faizan Waheed, Lalpekhlua, Lalhmingchhuanga Fanai, Gurnaj Singh Grewal, Korou Singh Thingujam, Huzafah Ahmad Dar, Phoenix Oinam.
Forwards: Thanglalsoun Gangte, Aman.
Head Coach: Bibiano Fernandes. (ANI)