U-17 Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers: India take on Maldives in their tournament opener (preview) - Al Khobar (Saudi Arabia) News
by IANS | Updated Oct 02, 2022
The Group D campaign has already gotten underway, with Kuwait and hosts Saudi Arabia defeating the Maldives and Myanmar, respectively. Both matches ended with a margin of 6-0 in favour of the victors.
India head coach Bibiano Fernandes feels that his boys are confident, heading into their first game of the qualifiers.
"We are confident that we can put out good performances in these qualifiers. It is a completely new batch to our course, and these boys have not had as much exposure as the last two batches due to Covid-19, but they are still a bunch of talented boys who have come a long way since we began the camp in February," said Fernandes.
The Maldives may have lost their first match 0-6 against Kuwait, but Fernandes feels that his boys will start from square one against them, and that they would have to be on their guard.
"We have seen Maldives in the SAFF U-17 Championship in Sri Lanka, and in yesterday's match as well. They have lost by a big margin, but it can be tricky against a team that has just had such a result. Such results can often jolt the players into action, and we need to be on our guard against them," he said.
Having said that, the head coach has full faith in his boys to go out and get the job done.
"We have enough quality players to get the three points, and that is what we always set out to do -- no matter the opposition. It's the three points that matter the most at the end of the day, and that is what we are after," said Fernandes.
On the other hand, Maldives head coach Ahmad Shareef feels that development, and not results, are the most important thing for his side.
"I'd like to thank the organisers for hosting us in these qualifiers. I am sure everyone has worked hard, as have our players," said Shareef.
"Our preparations may not have been as extensive as we would have liked, but the main focus for us is to get these boys ready for the next level. For us, the development aspect is very important, and these matches are crucial for that," he added.
A total of 43 teams will be participating in the AFC U-17 Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers across 10 groups. The 10 group winners will guarantee themselves a spot in the competition, while the six best second-placed teams will also join them in 2023.
Group D has five teams, which means that the points earned and goals (scored and conceded) against the fourth and fifth-placed teams will not be considered while calculating the six best second-placed teams across the 10 groups since Group H has only three teams.