One match away from sealing a maiden berth in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, India U-16 football team coach Bibiano Fernandes feels although their next opponents South Korea are the favourites, they will not go down without a fight.
“South Korea are one of the teams touted to win the AFC U-16 Championship and the match against them will be the most challenging ninety minutes that any one of us has ever faced. Korea Republic are the overwhelming favourites,” Bibiano told www.the-aiff.com.
“They are tactically very agile and have swift players in almost all positions who are capable of catching the opponent defence off guard. However, we were underestimated in our 1-0 win over Iraq in the Four-Nation Tournament and we were underestimated in the group stages of the AFC U-16 Championship. But here we are, we will give everything that we have in the match against Korea Republic,” he said.
After advancing through the group stages of the AFC U-16 Championship for the first time in 16 years, the Indian U-16 national team is aiming high.
With just a win away from qualification to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru next year, the squad is apprehensive about the challenge that lies ahead.
“Everybody in the squad including the staff knows the gravity of our quarter-final bout. The boys have sacrificed a lot for these coming ninety minutes and have worked tirelessly day in and day out for the same. This is the moment that they have been preparing for, almost their whole lives till now,” Bibiano said.
“The gravity of the moment is immense and everybody is apprehensive of what it means and what it can mean for Indian football.”
India has never defeated Korea Republic in any format in football, but Bibiano said if the team, which has drawn many plaudits for their performance, plays to their strength they can give their more illustrious rivals a run for their money.
“We are raring to go. It would not be easy but it would be worth it. If we play to our strengths, we can give them a run for their money. We will fight.”
Are missed chances in front of the goal still a major concern?
“We are creating chances at will and we created some of the best goal scoring opportunities of the match against both Iran and Indonesia. If we had taken those chances we could have won both matches,” Bibiano opined.
“All of those matches are past and we are working on our finishing in the training sessions. Going ahead we cannot afford to be complacent in front of goal in the knock out matches. That will hurt us very badly,” he added.