India’s U-18 football team will be looking to open its SAFF U-18 Championship campaign on a winning note when it takes on Bangladesh in its opening match here on Monday.
Bangladesh already has a win under its belt — it defeated Sri Lanka by a 3-0 margin in the opening encounter of the group. Floyd Pinto, the head coach of the Indian team, is well aware of the threat posed by Bangladesh.
‘Quite a test’
“We watched them in their first match against Sri Lanka. Their physical presence and strength is remarkable. They are also really good on set pieces. All of that means that we need to be on the top of our game. It will be quite a test for us. But we are ready for the challenges. We need to maintain the focus, and the intensity and play the same way as done before,” Pinto said.
Mahesh Gawli, the assistant coach, highlighted the fact that the SAFF Championship will be the indicator of the team’s strengths and weaknesses as it prepares for the eventual test — the AFC U-19 Qualifiers in November. “The SAFF Championship is extremely significant. We have done well in the three exposure tours where the boys faced international oppositions and performed very well,” Gawli said.
“The boys look focussed, and very sharp in training,” he added.
‘One game at a time’
India’s U-19 team headed to the SAFF Championship on the back of a successful outing in Vanuatu, where it finished in the first place. Floyd insisted the team will be taking it one match at a time. “We have to take one game at a time. We also have to maintain the right level of focus, and let our football do the talking. Only what we do on the pitch will matter,” he maintained.
Goalkeeper Prabshukhan Singh Gill felt there was no dearth of leadership in the team. “We have a lot of leaders in the team who can guide in pressure situations. Bangladesh have a good squad. They had reached the finals in the last edition. The SAFF is a tough tournament. But we are here to win it,” he quipped.