As hosts of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, India are hoping for a quarter-final finish in the upcoming tournament, coach Luis Norton de Matos has said. India are hosting the mega football event, first ever in the country, in October this year. In an interview to PTI, Matos said that in a short span of time, he has tried to build a team which had give a tough fight to the favourites.
“When we talk about targets we usually associate victories, a finish in the quarterfinal. That is a legitimate dream. We will do everything to fight the favourites and the stronger teams,” De Matos told PTI.
“The ultimate objective is to show the world our progress and growth that young Indian football players can practice fair and great football and that there is hope for an even better future.”
De Mato, who was former coach of Benfica reserve side, said that India have made progress in the past three months and working hard on more aspects of the game.
“The team has made progress during these three months of work. They have a defined game idea which is yet to be perfected. But through the ongoing training exercises, game simulation, and our playing model, we are working on that.
“But there is something that no manager in the world can do in eight months of preparation, like the experience of 10 years of competition as the majority of World Cup teams have. Playing friendly games is not the same as official games.”
The Portuguese, who replaced Nicolai Adam under controversial circumstances, said that outings in Europe have been good and decisive for the progress of the team.
“The experience in Europe has been good and decisive for the progress of the individual objectives of the team. The willingness to learn from the players was of paramount importance.
“At the same time, I cannot forget the quality of the work of my support staff. Yet I am conscious that there is still a long way to go until the World Cup to further reduce the gap between India and the rest of the teams. These players have shown positive qualities — focus, momentum, intensity, speed, learning ability, enthusiasm and sacrifice. The team has improved on its passing and has been intelligent in using the vacant spaces.
“The training process has stressed on that and the team has been able to create openings in every game we have played so far. But we need to work on the execution efficiency as we have missed many goals. The team has also learnt to play in close lines and improved immensely on pressing. The solidarity and the unity in the squad are exceptional.”
De Mato also stressed on the fact that the team will play collectively but individual brilliance will also be needed.
“I know each player very well and their respective capacities. Each opponent will have individual and collective characteristics for which we need to establish strategies to adapt and counter the opponent.
“It is not essential that the players need to stand out individually because they all have a vital role in the team. However, I am aware that during the competition some players will be hogging the limelight more than others.”
“Before the competition, I will never mention names because they are all being trained and prepared mentally for heroic roles in the team. I also will not refer to weaker positions because it will be challenging to find players for them as our opponent teams should not know weak spots.”