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21 July 2017

FIFA U-17: India have 5 per cent chance of winning every game, says coach

India U-17 Coach Luis Norton Matos

The Indian football team faces an unenviable task against some of the game’s best in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in October, but the hosts’ Portuguese coach is still pleased with preparations.

The FIFA U-17 World Cup is around the corner and India is anxious to see how the home team fares as it competes on the grand stage for the first time. Head coach Luis Norton de Matos believes the India U-17 side is confident for the tournament, from October 6 to 28, though the odds are stacked against them.

“We realise our chances of winning a match is extremely bleak in the competition. I think we have a five percent chance of achieving a positive result in those games and we need to fight for that,” the Portuguese coach said in a chat with the media on Thursday.

Major step up

India are drawn in Group A where they face powerhouses USA, Colombia and Ghana. The hosts start their campaign against USA on October 6 before facing Colombia on October 9 and Ghana on October 12.

“The coming months will be tough because the players will have to concentrate hard, but we cannot be more confident going into the first game because I believe we can make an impression,” Matos added.

Asked about the group opponents, Matos said: “The draw has pitted us against some of the toughest teams of the tournament. But two of our players (Sanjeev Stalin and Dheeraj Singh) told me they think we will win and that is the confidence you can expect from us in the tournament.”

Matos was quick to dismiss any talk of home advantage as he believes the other teams will be ready for the weather that awaits them in October at the 24-team competition.

“It is unwise to consider that we will have any home advantage. The players from Ghana and Colombia will have no problems in getting accustomed to the weather here and the USA team is already training in Dubai to prepare for the World Cup,” he said.

Being the guiding light

The India U-17 football team has seen many ups and downs in the past year. Things had looked bleak when the All India Football Federation (AIFF) sacked Nicolai Adam as coach in January over his treatment of the players. It was a big blow to the preparations of a team getting to ready to play its first-ever international tournament.

With just over two months left for the FIFA U-17 World Cup to kick off, new coach Matos had the task cut out.

However, the team produced some good performances during exposure trips to Portugal and Italy. They were able to beat Italian side Valmontone City U-17 and a fighting draw against SL Benfica U-17 was certainly the highlight of their Portugal tour.

It was a creditable turnaround for a side riddled with issues and Matos was all praise for the youngsters. “We have progressed a lot as a team in the last few months. We have produced good football, but it does not matter when there are no points for your performances. However, we showed in Europe that Indian players are on a par with European players.

“When it comes to my contribution, every coach has his own philosophy and I am trying to help them in every possible way. I want to be a leader, not a chief who just gives orders,” he added.

Credit: Hindustantimes



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