Kuruniyan eyes AFC U-23 Championship after Asian Cup show

After a remarkable debut AFC Asian Cup campaign, forward Ashique Kuruniyan has now set his eyes on the upcoming AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers.

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Ashique Kuruniyan in action at the AFC Asian Cup 2019.   -  AP

Ashique Kuruniyan had a remarkable debut AFC Asian Cup campaign. The 21-year-old started in all three of of India’s group stage matches in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 and played alongside Sunil Chhetri in the forward line, often tearing apart opposition defences and creating many a goal-scoring opportunity. 

Looking back at India's campaign, which ended with a 1-0 loss to Bahrain, he said: "It was a big tournament for all of us. The experience of playing in it was incredible. I was fortunate enough to play in all three matches and it has added to my confidence."

"The difficulty level was naturally high and all three matches were against difficult oppositions. The experience of playing in such a high-quality tournament was amazing. I feel my game has improved after this challenge and now, we have to take it forward from here," he added.

The youngster felt the game against Bahrain was the side's biggest challenge. "We had fewer chances to score and the opponents were playing a direct style of football. They were quite physical and were winning almost all the second balls. It was a tough outing for us," he said.

Kuruniyan, who plies his trade for FC Pune City in the Indian Super League, said he would take the positives and look to work on his game. "Playing as a striker was a tough challenge but I am glad that I gave my 100 percent on the field. There is always room for improvement and now I have to continue to work on my game."

Kuruniyan now has his eyes set on the upcoming AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers. "My next target is to get selected for the India U-23 team – first for the camp, and then in the final list of 23. The AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers are coming up, and we need to work on that," he concluded.