FIFA U17 WC: India coach Norton advises his boys not to be overawed by the hype

Luis Norton de Matos, who took over following the dismissal of German Nicolai Adam, is confident of his team’s defensive shape and is hoping that his boys will put a strong performance in the FIFA Under 17 World Cup.

Luis Norton de Matos addresses the media in New Delhi on Thursday.   -  Twitter/FIFA Hindi

Eleven young boys will be part of India’s date with football destiny when they take on the USA in the country’s first ever match in a FIFA event. The Indian under-17 players have trained together for the past two years, but a lot has changed in the shape and philosophy of the team since the appointment of Portugal’s Luis Norton de Matos seven months prior to the tournament.

Norton, who took over following the dismissal of German Nicolai Adam, is confident of his team’s defensive shape and is hoping that his boys will put up a strong performance. “One of my main concerns when I took over was about the change in style. But I am glad the players understood the process very quickly.  They were used to a more direct style of football, but I want more consistency with the ball. We have worked at reducing the space to counter the attacking threat of teams like USA, Ghana and Colombia,” Norton said. “The structure of the team starts with the defence and we have improved there."

The coach, however, admits the team’s weakness in front of the goal. “It is more difficult to improve the offensive side of play. We created chances during our exposure trips but were not good at converting them. We perhaps need seven chances to score while a European team will convert one of every three chances that come their way.”

Norton added: "US, Ghana and Colombia are at big level. As a coach I have prepared well, players know what they need to do when they start tomorrow. But in football you never know. There's always a possibility and we will fight for that. We will like to make history for India football. All games are different, independent of opponents and we will try our best. It's important our team fights."

Acknowledging the magnitude of the occasion, Norton advised his boys not to be overawed by the hype around the meet and enjoy every minute of their stay on the field. “They will never forget this moment. It’s a big opportunity for them and they should enjoy every minute, every tackle of the game. The key is to concentrate and not lose your head and stick to the organisation that we have worked on,” he said. “I am proud of the fact that all of them are willing to work that extra hard to make India proud.”

Norton reiterated the need for the whole country to back the team. “It is a big event for India. This is the first step, the first big moment for Indian football and I’m excited to be part of it. The crowd will play an important role, they can be the 12th man for the team, egging the 11 boys who are fighting on the field.”