The host’s coach admits his team are underdogs but is bidding to create history.
We are on the brink to witness the kickoff of the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 and hosts India will play their first ever match in the tournament on Friday against the USA. In what is assured to be a historic match for football in the country, the young Colts have the hopes and dreams of the entire nation riding on their shoulders as they look to prove their doubters wrong at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi.
Before the storm starts, India U-17 coach Luis Norton de Matos sat down with the press speaking about everything regarding the game. Matos was asked about what is the feeling amongst the camp as they gear up to play India’s first ever World Cup match to which he answered, “Of course, it’s a big event for India to participate in for the first time in a competition like the World Cup.
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Matos continued, “I’m very excited as all the Indian people like football and we work very hard. The reason to be here is the AIFF and the government wants a project for Indian football. It’s why they wanted to play the U-17 World Cup. This is the first step and the first moment for working towards the future and I’m very excited to be a part of this process.”
India had played the USA last year in the AIFF Youth Cup and Matos was asked about what were his takeaways from that match and how he intends to approach tomorrow’s game. “The United States like Colombia and Ghana are three teams of the big level. As a coach, I’m preparing very well for this game. The players know very well what we can expect tomorrow. But football is a game where you cannot know what happens.
The coach continued, “You might know all the strongest points of United States and know how to react to the small weakness they can have, as they are more stronger than us. We are going to fight very hard for this little possibility and we would like to make history, write history for Indian football, but of course, the players are involved in this process also very well and tomorrow we will see how the game goes. We hope that tomorrow we can play with 12 players. Our 11 players and the public, who are extremely important to creating history.”
India’s right-back Boris Singh has been ruled out of tomorrow game, so the coach was asked if he had a replacement in mind. “When I discovered that Boris cannot play the first game due to a red card, we have two different solutions and we worked hard with those solutions. Tomorrow we start with a player who is ready to do his job.”
Matos was then asked about what he felt was the strong areas of the USA to which he replied. “When you analyze the United States and you compare with the Indian team, all points of the United States are very strong when compared with us. But when you watch the United States playing, they have a philosophy of attacking, an offensive philosophy which is very proper. As a coach, I’d like to have a derivative of solutions for United States attack with fantastic players in Akinola, Sargent and Carleton are players who are very strong as well. For us, we have to play as a collective unit and try to fight these strongest points of the United States.”
Visuals from Indian Football team training before taking on USA in FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017
India are definitely the underdogs of Group A and the gaffer was asked whether that “underdogs status” of the team works in the team’s favour, to which he replied. “No. We have played against Mexico, Colombia and Chile. But others don’t know what formation we are going to play tomorrow, as it wasn’t an official game like the USA played before. And this is the reality that I prefer a lot of international games. We don’t play a lot of games and as I’ve said in interviews is that our problem is that we need to play more. When you start the process in a country like the USA and Portugal, you have 7 years old you have competition. You have competition in Schools and colleges. They come in the World Cup with competition and experience. But we don’t have any of that experience.”
Matos has been at the helm of India for 7 months now as he was asked about which were the most positive and negative things which surprised him, to which he answered: “When there are changing of coaches, there is a difference of philosophy. My main concern when I arrived was to put my ideas and the players following my ideas. So my good surprise was the players focusing and trying to follow these ideas and in the short time of 2 months, the process was correct in the mind of the players. We played very good games in Europe for example and the intensity of the Indian players as they are very humble and want to learn.”
“This is positive and one important thing is to build up crosses as they were used to playing more direct football. We tried to start the process with our corrective organisation with two lines to reduce the space in teams like USA and Ghana as they are very strong. The process starts with the defence and it’s very important to have a good defence to have success. But not only the defence, but also a very good goalkeeper. If you have a good defence, it increases the possibility of having a good result. The weakness for me is that they can’t create many chances to score, but the problem is we need to create perhaps 7 occasions to score a goal,” added Matos.
As all the players are still teenagers, they are still pretty immature. Finally, the Gaffer was asked about what he suggests to them before the big match tomorrow: ” I try very hard with the mental coaching as well. I think this is a moment they will never forget in life. They must enjoy this moment, every tackle, the fans support and they must enjoy playing football. We must not lose our heads. Even if we lose, you should give our 100% and I’m pretty sure every player tomorrow will give their all because, in the end, we need to be proud of this event. We try to be competent, we try to be intelligent and we must never lose our concentration. That is our main goal for tomorrow.” he signed off with.