Facing the threat of an early elimination, hosts India will need to post a win to stay afloat in the AFC U-16 Championship when they take on formidable Iran in a must win Group A clash on Wednesday.
After going down to United Arab Emirates in their opening match, India did well to hold Saudi Arabia to a draw in the second game.
Just like their first game against UAE, India surrendered the first half lead to Saudi Arabia, who came back strongly in the second half to score two quick goals in a span of two minutes to take the lead.
But with more than 4,000 spectators backing the home team, India went all out in the dying minutes and earned a penalty deep into injury time that captain Suresh Wangjam converted to claim a 3-3 draw. With that draw, the hosts kept their hopes alive for a place in the quarter-finals.
India now play their last match against table toppers Iran and need nothing less than a win to advance in the knockout stage.
“It will be a very difficult match against Iran but we will give it our best,” said India coach Nicolai Adam.
“There have been a lot of results at this tournament that have not been expected. Honestly, I believe it can happen. If you can imagine it and believe in it then it is possible and that is how we will go into the match,” he added. Iran, who have four points, just need a draw to advance in the knockout round.
However, Iran coach Abbas Chamanian said his team will not play for a draw and will look to register an outright win.
“We are not going into this match looking for a point, we will play offensively and we are only thinking about three points from the game against India. We’ll be looking for a victory from the first minute. We respect India but we have one goal and that is to reach a higher level,” he said.
As Group A reaches a pulsating climax with all four teams still in the hunt for a place in the quarter-finals, Saudi Arabia will have to defeat UAE tomorrow in another Group A match, which will be simultaneously played at GMC Stadium, Bambolim, if they want to avoid an early exit.
Mohammed Al Abdali’s team have looked impressive in spells but allowed a two-goal advantage to turn into a 3-2 reversal in their opener against Iran before conceding at the death in the draw with India.
“After the game against Iran we realised that the deciding match would be against UAE and we started to prepare the players mentally for this game,” said Al Abdali, Saudi Arabia coach.
UAE coach Abdelmajeed Al Nemer said his team will try its best to qualify.
“The game is going to make all the difference and it will be really tough. But we will try our best to qualify,” said Abdelmajeed Al Nemer.