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FIFA U-17 World Cup: We Will Play to Win, Says India Coach de Matos

The moment that Indian football fans have been waiting for is almost upon us, as the country gets ready to make its first ever appearance in a FIFA World Cup tournament, of any level, as the U-17 tournament gets underway in the capital on October 6.

Rishi Sinha | CNN-News18

Updated:October 2, 2017, 1:55 PM IST
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FIFA U-17 World Cup: We Will Play to Win, Says India Coach de Matos
Sunil Chhetri poses with the India Under 17 team during the jersey launch. (Nike India Image)
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New Delhi: The moment that Indian football fans have been waiting for is almost upon us, as the country gets ready to make its first ever appearance in a FIFA World Cup tournament, of any level, as the U-17 tournament gets underway in the capital on October 6.

The fact that India did not even have an U-17 team before being awarded the tournament by the sport's governing body, means not many have very high hopes from the boys, who will walk out at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium to take on heavyweights USA. But that doesn't stop the team from giving their best on field, a fact which the team's coach Luis Norton de Matos told CNN-News18 during an exclusive interaction.

“When my team finishes the game, they should be proud of their performance no matter what. The team does not have experience of playing at such a high level, but we will fight no matter what,” the Portuguese said.

De Matos was appointed coach earlier this year after the dramatic sacking of Nicolai Adam. During the short period with the team, de Matos has had the onerous task of selecting the final squad and also instilling self-belief in a bunch of players, who will have punch way above their weight to spring a surprise or two, and the coach is hopeful his boys have it in them to do it.

“The team has prepared well and we need to be organised and cannot make mistakes. If we don’t make mistakes, then we will have a chance, and we will fight to make full use of that.”

“My philosophy is to play for a result no matter what. I don’t believe that losing to stronger teams can be a good thing in anyway. Even if it’s a 1-0 loss. A defeat is a defeat,” said the 53-year old former Portugal striker, while noting that India are in a tough group with the likes of USA, Colombia and Ghana, teams which have done well at this level.

The team recently chose midfielder Amarjit Singh Kiyam as its captain and the coach feels that each and every player of the team knows what it means to represent their country in a World Cup and will give it their best shot.

“The boys know the meaning and sentiment of wearing a national team jersey in a mega tournament like the FIFA World Cup. The sentiment of wearing the national colors and giving your all for the country runs deep in this team.”

In an interview to the AIFF in Gurgaon, the team’s current base, the coach added, “All players are going to give their 200% and will play to the best of their abilities. It is evident that they are raring to go.”

Unlike any of the previous national teams, the India U-17 team has travelled widely over the last two and a half years in a bid to prepare for this showpiece event.

One of their standout results came in August when they held Chile to a 1-1 draw in Mexico City. Chile who have just arrived in India qualified for the finals as the runners up of South American U-17 Championship.

The morale boosting result was then followed up with a 3-0 win against Mauritius in Goa.

The 63 year old coach from Lisbon has continuously stayed away from discussions related to predicting results, and instead takes a pragmatic stand, saying, “On our day, we can put strong teams under pressure. In football anything is possible and we will take to the field keeping in mind that fact, to show the world that we belong on the same stage as them.”
| Edited by: Baidurjo Bhose
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