AIFF Media Team
NEW DELHI: A day after the Indian U-16 National Team lost lead and match to Japan U-16 in their first-ever meeting at the U-16 level, Head Coach Bibiano Fernandes felt the “encouraging” performance will go a long way among the fans to make all believe the future of Indian Football can play Football in the true sense.
“Today's performance would go a long way in instilling the belief not just within the team but among a lot of supporters and well-wishers and among all stakeholders that we can play,” he said.
India had taken the lead in the 26th minute through Vikram Pratap Singh when he converted from the spot, a moment which Bibiano admitted: “sent the bench berserk.” That was India’s first goal against Japan in 36 years, the last being scored by Shabbir Ali and Manoranjan Bhattacharyya on September 3, 1981 at the Merdeka Trophy in Kuala Lumpur.
Bibiano smiled when told about it. “That’s quite some time. I wasn’t aware of that,” he uttered.
“The goal was a special moment for all of us,” Bibiano said, only to repeat: “A very special moment indeed. Of course, we were not much aware of the history but scoring against Japan to take the lead is so much satisfying as a Head Coach,” he added.
“We were upbeat and confident from the start and understandably there was a lot of excitement on the bench when we took the lead. It was a historic moment,” he stated.
“Undoubtedly Japan has been the best Asian team we have played so far. Their confidence on the ball, awareness and passing ability is exceptional. Taking the lead against such an opposition midway into the first-half is a huge motivation for us for the future,” he added.
“But this isn’t where the team would stop. We know there are miles to go and these boys have the capability to march on,” he stressed on the performance not just being restricted to the day.
India have qualified for the AFC U-16 Championship Malaysia 2018 and are presently on an exposure tour to Jordan, all organised by AIFF in coordination with SAI.
What was the half-time talk about?
“The best part was that the lead didn’t get to the head of the boys. That pleases me. We matched them and as he headed to the locker room after 45 minutes with a 1-0 lead, we were aware of the task we had at hand in the 2nd half,” he stated.
“We knew we would have to do a lot in the second half to maintain it because of the quality they have in their team. Japan had an upper hand in the second half. We tried our best to defend as well as double the lead,” he maintained. But goals from Kuraba Kondo (57th) and Shoji Toyama (64th) seized it for the Samurais.
Bibiano admitted the “quality was a bit too good for us.”
“I knew it would be a difficult task and the boys played their hearts out. But the quality of Japan was just a bit too good for us. We might have lost today but the performance the boys put in today against a team that is rated the best in Asia is really encouraging.”
The Indian colts next play current AFC U-16 Champions Iraq in their next match on Sunday (August 5, 2018).