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Korea game will be most challenging 90 minutes for my players: India U-16 coach


Press Trust of India Kuala Lumpur
India coach Bibiano Fernandes said Saturday the AFC U-16 Championship quarterfinal against South Korea will be the most challenging 90 minutes of his players' careers, overcoming which, will give them a ticket to the U-17 World Cup.
Having qualified for the knockouts for the first time since 2002, India have drawn the mighty Koreans, already dubbed overwhelming favourites by Bibiano.
"Korea Republic 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 said two days ahead of the match.
"They are tactically 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."

On Thursday, India held Indonesia goalless in the last Group C match to clear the first hurdle and stand a win away from making FIFA's age-group showpiece.
"Everybody in the squad including the staff knows the gravity of our quarterfinal. 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.
India have never defeated Korea Republic in any format in football, but Bibiano's boys are a capable lot.
"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."

Defensively, India have been solid, and the coach said, "We have always believed that a solid defence is the foundation of a football team and thus we have worked hard in our defending and high pressing style of play.
The credit goes to the players for defending as a single cohesive unit and not as individuals and to their intelligent mind-sets. They read the game well for sure.
Asked if missed chances in front of goal remain a concern, he said, "We are creating chances at will and we created some of the best scoring opportunities of the match against both Iran and Indonesia. If we had taken those chances we could have won both matches.
"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 knockout matches. That will hurt us very badly."

And how does he assess India's performance in the group stages, Bibiano said the aim was to clear the group stage.
"The main thing was to get out of the group stages regardless of the results. After beating Vietnam by a solitary goal, we played out two goalless draws the first against mighty Iran and against an excellent Indonesian U-16 side.
"Getting out of the group stage was the primary focus prior to the kick-off and I am happy that the boys performed well and everything went according to our game plan in all three matches.
"Most significantly, we got out of the group stage ahead of Iran and that in itself is a huge motivation for us."

He said the stalemate against Iran helped to a large extent in their knockout qualification bid.
"Had we had not played a goalless draw against Iran then we would have gone into the match against Indonesia as a must-win match. That one point against one of the best youth teams in the region helped us massively in our bid to progress.

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First Published: Sep 29 2018 | 5:35 PM IST

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