Tuesday, April 16, 2024

AFC U-17 Asian Cup: Improvement in players is key, but winning always important, says Bibiano Fernandes

Ahead of their campaign opener at the AFC U-17 Asian Cup against Vietnam, India head coach Bibiano Fernandes on Friday said that the improvement in players is key but winning is always important.

India will take on Vietnam in a Group D match at the Thammasat Stadium, here in Pathum Thani on Saturday. The two sides last met in the 2018 edition when India beat Vietnam 2-1 to reach the quarterfinals, their best result in the competition to date.

With an intense preparatory stage spanning over months and continents, coach Fernandes stressed on the importance of inculcating a winning culture in the boys.

“Of course, improvement in the players is key, but winning is always important. We want to develop and cultivate top players, and we cannot do that if we are not winning. Winning matches and qualifying for the FIFA U-17 World Cup is most important. If we don’t play the World Cup at this age, we can’t develop as a footballing nation. Development is on our mind, but we also focus on winning,” said Fernandes.

India have trained in Spain and Germany for the last month and a half, playing training matches against the youth sides of some of the best clubs in the world, like Real Madrid, Atletico de Madrid, Getafe CF, UD Levante, VfB Stuttgart, FC Augsburg, and many more.

Although the results have been quite positive for the Blue Colts, Fernandes feels that Group D of the AFC U-17 Asian Cup, where they have been clubbed together with Vietnam, Uzbekistan, and Japan, will be an altogether different affair.

“We have some very good practice matches in Europe, where we played some top quality teams. However, we know that a competition is a competition, and the matches will be different. We know the level here.

All three of our opponents in the group stage are regulars in the AFC U-17 Asian Cup, so we’ve had a plan and have prepared likewise for this competition. Vietnam is a neighbouring country, and they will probably have some fans in the stands, so we have also trained the boys to perform under pressure and noise from the stands,” said Fernandes.

On the other hand, Vietnam head coach Hoang Ahn Tuan showed a lot of respect to his opponents on the eve of the match and feels confident about his team’s chances.

“The match against India will be important for us. I show my deepest respects to all the teams participating in this group. We just want to say that we are placed very well. We respect Uzbekistan, Japan and also India. I also don’t think about who is the strongest team in this group. So we will go on to give our best performance in this competition,” Tuan said.

Vietnam is tipped to have the backing of the crowd against India, and Ahn tuan intends for his side to make full use of that.

To be honest, I don’t feel the pressure because of the fans coming. In fact, with more fans, we will feel more satisfied and relaxed for the match and I hope that the players will feel the same as myself. But it is not easy to predict the youth level mentality and I hope when the fans come tomorrow, we will hold a good account of ourselves,” he said.



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