INDIAN FOOTBALL

India is keen to defeat Vietnam in the opening match of the AFC U-17 Asian Cup

INDIA U-17

The India U-17 Men’s National Team’s campaign in the AFC U-17 Asian Cup is ready to get underway at the Thammasat Stadium in Pathum Thani, where they will play Vietnam in the tournament’s opening game, capping up a year and a half of labour, toil, and much anticipation.

After seeing his team nearly reach the semifinals of the 2018 competition, India’s head coach Bibiano Fernandes emphasised the value of instilling a winning culture among the players.

“Of course, improvement in the players is key, but winning is always imporant. We want to develop and cultivate top players, and we cannot do that if we are not winning,” Fernandes said.

“Winning matches and qualifying for the FIFA U-17 World Cup is most important. If we don’t play the World Cup at this age, we can’t develop as a footballing nation. Development is on our mind, but we also focus on winning.”

India previously played Vietnam in the 2018 competition (then known as the AFC U-16 Championship), a game they won 1-0 thanks to a penalty kick by Vikram Partap Singh in the 86th minute. Fernandes recalled the game, saying, “We had played Vietnam in 2018 in the group stage, and it was a great experience for the boys. We were able to build on that result and went on to secure two more qualifications for this tournament.

India vs Vietnam

“We’ve had more talented players coming in since our grassroots are getting better every year, so we are hoping for a very good game this time too,” he added.

For the past month and a half, India has been practising in Germany and Spain. They have competed in training matches against the youth teams of some of the top clubs in the world, like Real Madrid, Atletico de Madrid, Getafe CF, UD Levante, VfB Stuttgart, FC Augsburg, and many others. Although the Blue Colts’ results have been pretty good, Fernandes believes that Group D of the AFC U-17 Asian Cup, where they will compete alongside Vietnam, Uzbekistan, and Japan, will be a very different situation.

“We have some very good practice matches in Europe, where we played some top quality teams. However, we know that a competition is a competition, and the matches will be different,” he remarked. “We know the level here.

“All three of our opponents in the group stage are regulars in the AFC U-17 Asian Cup, so we’ve had a plan and have prepared likewise for this competition,” according to Fernandes. “Vietnam is a neighbouring country, and they will probably have some fans in the stands, so we have also trained the boys to perform under pressure and noise from the stands.”

AFC U-17 Asian Cup

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Hoang Ahn Tuan is the head coach of Vietnam. He expressed a great deal of respect for his opponents before the game and is optimistic about his team’s chances.

“The match against India will be important for us. I show my deepest respects to all the teams participating in this group,” Tuan remarked. “We just want to say that we are placed very well. We respect Uzbekistan, Japan and also India. I also don’t think about who is the strongest team in this group. So we will go on to give our best performance in this competition.”

Ahn Tuan wants his team to fully capitalise. On the fact that Vietnam is expected to enjoy the crowd’s support against India.

“To be honest, I don’t feel the pressure because of the fans coming. In fact, with more fans, we will feel more satisfied and relaxed for the match and I hope that the players will feel the same as myself. But it is not easy to predict the youth level mentality and I hope when the fans come tomorrow, we will hold a good account of ourselves,” he added.

Jio TV will stream live the India vs. Vietnam match from the Thammasat Stadium in Pathum Thani, Thailand, commencing at 7.30 PM IST.

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