Impressive results, but India U-17s’ focus remains squarely on AFC U-17 Asian Cup, says Bibiano Fernandes
08 May 2023

AIFF Media Team

NEW DELHI: The India U-17 team has put up some impressive results during their preparatory matches in Spain, but the focus remains squarely on the team’s upcoming campaign in the AFC U-17 Asian Cup, which gets underway next month.

India have played four practice matches since shifting camp to Spain, winning two, while losing and drawing one each. The Blue Colts have faced Atletico de Madrid U-17s (4-1), Leganes U-18s (0-2), Atletico de Madrid U-16s (2-1), and Real Madrid U-18s (3-3) so far. Two more matches against Getafe U-18s and Atletico de Madrid U-17s are yet to be played.

While sounding positive about the performance that his wards have dished out in the Iberian Peninsula so far, head coach Bibiano Fernandes stressed on the need to keep focused on the road ahead in order to get the desired results in the AFC U-17 Asian Cup next month.

“I’ve always told the boys that it is a process, and that the main goal for us is the AFC U-17 Asian Cup. We must maintain our focus,” he said. “The performances have been good so far, but we are not looking at the results at the moment. We are looking ahead to improve as a team. We have told the boys to be humble and to learn the right attitude. We have to ensure that they don’t get relaxed after such results and keep playing good football.”

India have been placed in Group D of the AFC U-17 Asian Cup, where they will play Vietnam (June 17), Uzbekistan (June 20), and Japan (June 23). Bibiano’s boys will travel to Germany on May 16 for another two weeks of practice matches, before shifting base to Thailand at the start of June, to acclimatise ahead of the U-17 Asian Cup.

“We’ve had some good results but it's very easy for the boys, at this stage, to get distracted. It is a natural tendency amongst humans to get complacent. We are trying our best to keep them on their toes, and the coaching team is constantly reminding them that this is just the process. The main stage is yet to come,” he said.

The India U-17 boys, who have not played against such illustrious clubs before, were excited to play against top sides like Atletico de Madrid or Real Madrid. However, the belief slowly came into the players that they can also perform against them.

“When we played our first match against Atletico U-17, the result that we got (4-1) gave the initial belief to the boys that they could perform at that level. They don’t really need motivation ahead of such matches. They are all fans of these clubs and have been watching their matches since they were kids,” said Fernandes.

The India U-17s were also visited by FIFA World Cup winner and former Spain striker Fernando Torres, who is now head coach of Atletico de Madrid Juvenil A, along with his coaching staff, who even took a couple of training sessions with the boys.

“We had some conversations about him (Torres) coming to our training, and sure enough, he came and visited us a few days later, saw our training, and even acquiesced to a lot of photo requests,” said Fernandes. “It was a dream come true for the boys. I am sure they are looking forward to more such opportunities as well.”

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