“Our players have no obligation to win. They have an obligation to play to win.”
These words from Indian team’s coach Luis Norton de Matos, on Tuesday, aptly summed up his expectations for a nation that has no experience of performing at a platform as big as the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
The 24-nation event opens here on October 6, with India taking on USA at the Nehru Stadium. Colombia and Ghana are the other teams in Group A.
Following the league stages, the top-two teams from each of the six groups plus the four best third-placed teams will move into the pre-quarterfinals.
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The former Portugese footballer, who turns 64 this December, praised the hard work put in by the home team. The man who took over the reigns on March 1 this year, said, “I have different ideas and I follow a different process. I spent the first six weeks learning about the boys and their game. I am very happy to see that they are focussed and the follow me. I think, irrespective of how they perform here (in the World Cup), they all have a fantastic future.”
Non-committal about whether India could progress beyond the league stage, Matos said, “India needs to be competitive but we also have to remember that it does not have the experience of some of the leading teams. Playing friendly games is different – no points, no pressure.
“When you play in competitive matches, with a large home crowd supporting the team, you can feel the adrenaline pumping. For these boys, that will be an experience.
“In Europe, kids start playing at the age of six and by the time they play this championship, they have 11 years experience. It is not so with the Indian boys. But I am proud of the intensity with which they play. They are very determined to do well.”
The coach, who saw the possibility of an African nation creating a furore, chose Spain, Germany, Brazil and Mexico as the teams to watch out for.
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