THE INDIAN U-23 national team departed shores after a 5-day preparatory camp held in Tilak Maidan, Goa, in which coach Derrick Pereira zeroed down on the list of 23 players for the clash against the U-23 side of reigning AFC Asian Cup Champions Qatar on March 11, 2019, at the Aspire Academy ground in Doha. The kick-off for which is slated at 9:30 PM IST.
With 11 players coming from AIFF's developmental side, the Indian Arrows, that participated in the Hero I-League and notched up some bright results under their belt including a win against Mohun Bagan, Derrick is aiming to build for the future with the core of the squad coming from the Arrows project.
"They (young players) are our future. It's not only about the match against Qatar or the U-23 Championship qualifiers. We should have a long term plan for them so that they can excel in future. The experience of representing the nation in the U17 FIFA World Cup would help them improve on and off the pitch. If they are provided with the right kind of experience and exposure regularly, India football will go a long way."
Incidentally, India faced Qatar in the AFC U23 Championship qualifiers of the previous edition at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium Stadium in Doha on July 21, 2017. Almoez Ali, who broke Ali Daei's record of scoring the highest number of goals in a single edition of AFC Asian Cup recently, scored the solitary goal for the Gulf nation to pip India that day.
"We are primarily focusing on finding the right combination and our style of game. Uzbekistan are the reigning U-23 Asian champions and Tajikistan are a respectable side as well who we're going to face in the qualifiers. We can gauge ourselves after the Qatar game and as I've said, we'll focus more on our game rather than our opponents", Pereira stated.