Coach sets sights on U-16 semis despite injury concerns

Margaon Sep 14 (IANS) India U-16 football team coach Nicolai Adam reiterated on Wednesday that the target is to make it to the semi-finals of the AFC U-16 Championships which start here on Thursday.

“I have also made no secret of our target. We want to make it to the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 on merit and not as automatic hosts,” Nicolai was quoted as saying in a statement from the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

“If we are able to achieve it, it will be a sensation. It would be history for Indian football. But at the same time we are missing five of our players. So whether we are able to achieve our target or not, I can’t really commit. But yeah, the target hasn’t changed.”

India will take on the United Arab Emirates in their first Group A match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda on Thursday. The four semi-finalists among the 16 participating teams would earn a direct ticket to the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017.

“Everyone knows how we have prepared for this championship. There’s no secret to that,” Nicolai added. “I am happy with the preparation which we have had so far. We have had our exposure tour in Germany and Norway for the past three months and we have played 19 matches so far. We are looking forward to start our campaign and hope for the best,” Nicolai said.

The skies have opened up in Goa since Monday night and there have been short spells of rain all through the day since then.

Nicolai also stressed that he is taking one match at a time.

“You ask the coach from UAE and he will tell you that they take us seriously. If you ask me, I will also answer the same,” he quipped.

Complementing his UAE counterpart Abdelmajeed Ibrahim Mohamed Alnemer, Nicolai maintained that every team “stands in with a chance in youth football.”

“Every team stands with a chance in youth football. At the moment, we are focusing entirely on UAE. The moment it finishes, we will shift our focus to the next match against Saudi Arabia. That’s how we approach it — match by match.”

Nicolai also made a mention of Aimol Reamsochung who fractured his leg in the last practice match in Germany.

“We will miss him. He has not recovered. He had 49 stitches and at that moment it was pretty bad,” he recollected.

“All teams have made it to the Finals after having qualified from the Qualifiers a year back. But we will be competitive. We will fight.”

–IANS

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