Luis Norton De Matos has been with the Indian U-17 football team for six months now. The team is just two months away from playing in the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017. Being the host, India, have been drawn into Group A alongwith the USA, Colombia and Ghana. This is the first time an Indian side will be represented in FIFA’s premier U-17 competition, unlike what is the case with the other teams in the tournament.
It will be a daunting task for the Indian team to compete with the likes of Colombia and Ghana and De Matos is also under no illusions. Although De Matos expressed confidence in his team progressing beyond the group stage, he admitted that he was aware of the challenges that came with the job. “Because Indian football there are no history in world football,” said De Matos in his heavily accented English. According to the Portuguese, most of the teams that play in this tournament have experience of playing for points. He admitted that it is “impossible” for any coach to bring a team up to that level.
“Since I have been coaching here, we have been having satisfactory results but, at the end (of friendly matches), zero points,” he said, “If you play against an Italian (U-17) team, all players have probably 10 years of experience of playing for points.”
It is also to be noted that this would be the first time that any of the teams, apart from the hosts themselves, will be playing in Indian conditions. De Matos, though, doesn’t expect that to be much of an advantage for India. “It won’t really matter because all the other teams will be prepared,” he said. He also said that in India’s group only USA would be feeling new to the conditions as Ghana and Colombia have weather patterns similar to what is seen in India.
At the same time, the Portuguese expressed confidence in his team having a fighting chance in progressing beyond the group stage. This despite them being grouped with USA and Colombia, who have both have fourth-place finishes previously and Ghana who have won the tournament twice. “Since I have been here, the team progressed very well. We have two and a half months to prepare for this tournament that everybody wants to watch India playing in and we are very confident in this moment,” said De Matos.