Team wants to capitalise on recent SAFF success: U-23 coach Johnson

Shillong, Feb 5 (IANS) A day prior to the Indian Under-23 football team’s opener against Sri Lanka in the South Asian Games, head coach Lee Johnson says the “boys want to capitalise” on the senior team’s success in the SAFF Championship.

As per the rules, the football competition in the Games is an U-23 one with three overage players allowed (as per rules of the Asian Games), however, the Indian squad will be fielding only two overage players while all the rest are below 23 including three players who are U-19.

“The boys want to capitalise on the recent success of the senior team where they had gone to win the SAFF Suzuki Cup. Some of them were part of the triumph, and there are also some who have played for the Senior Team in the recent past.

As individuals, they all want to do well and everyone is positive and confident,” Johnson said in an AIFF release on Friday.

Johnson said though they did not have much time with the players but the training has been great.

“We didn’t have much time with the players but from as and when we assembled, we have gone well in terms of training. We have trimmed the squad to 20 players on basis of players which we had available with us,” he said.

Asked how much of the SAFF win will transpire down to the squad, Johnson said: “It was obviously a great experience for those who were involved in the SAFF Cup. They played some exceptional football and ended as champions. Having tasted success, it makes them confident. Now it’s important for them to impart their experience onto the juniors and their contemporaries. That’s pertinent for success at all levels. Their experience, I feel, should help us.”

Speaking on the three under-19 players who are there in the squad, the Englishman stated: “The players are there on merit and bring value addition to the squad. In international football, it is simple – if you are not good enough, you won’t be there. It’s a good opportunity to develop younger players.”

Johnson added they cannot afford to take any team in the tournament lightly and that the players need to stay focused.

“In international football, you cannot take any team lightly. We respect them (Sri Lanka) as a team as much we believe they will respect us as a team. The players need to stay focused. The weather here is so much conducive for football,” he said.

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