New Delhi, March 20: India will aim for a maiden appearance in the final round of the AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers when they begin their campaign at the continental football tournament, starting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on March 22.
India have never made it to the final round of the AFC U23 Championship until now and in Tashkent too, the road looks tough as they have been clubbed along side defending champions Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
India U-23 team head coach Derrick Pereira named 10 19-year-olds and even a 16-year-old in the squad. "We should be excited about the possibility of making history," quipped Pereira. "We need to find the right combination and fight with the correct spirit."
Pereira further went on to stress the importance of the friendly that India played against Qatar. "This is why the friendly against Qatar was so helpful. They are a technically accomplished side, and we showed that we can perform well against such teams," he said.
"In our group, Uzbekistan is the team that has the acumen for such style of football, and judging by our last game, I think we can stand our ground against them."
India had controlled large share of possession against Qatar, whose senior team had clinched the AFC Asian Cup title, earlier this year. Although the Blue Colts created a lot of opportunities, they failed to utilise their chances, which is something that Pereira has been working on.
However, the 57-year-old believes that finishing is not the sole responsibility of his attackers. "Scoring is not the only responsibility of my strikers. The whole team should work together to create opportunities. Whoever gets the chance, in the end, needs to keep calm and finish it, but the main emphasis is on teamwork," he said.
India U-23 squad:
Goalkeepers: Dheeraj Singh, Prabhsukhan Gill, Md Nawaz.
Defenders: Narender, Nishu Kumar, Sarthak Golui, Gaurav Bora, Mehtab Singh, Anwar Ali, Asish Rai.
Midfielders: Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Vinit Rai, Sahal Abdul, Amarjit Singh, Rohit Kumar, Anirudh Thapa, Komal Thatal, Rahul KP.
Forwards: Liston Colaco, Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Rahim Ali, Rohit Danu.