India will go up against Afghanistan in their third and final match of the AFC U-19 Championship 2020 Qualifiers in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia on Sunday.
Having finished on the losing end in their first two games against Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia, head coach Floyd Pinto stated that the team wants to finish on a “winning note” in their last fixture.
“We have treated every game like a final and will go into the Afghanistan match with the same intensity and attitude as we have. Playing three matches in five days is not easy and we’ll assess the players and see how they recover. We are all determined to end this tournament on a winning note,” Pinto said.
Floyd reflected on the result against Saudi Arabia, which the team lost by four goals - all of which came in the first half-hour of the match. He stated that against an opposition of the quality of the host nation, which is also the defending AFC U19 champion, there is no room for error.
“You cannot give an opposition like Saudi Arabia such easy opportunities to score. They are a quality team and punished us every time we gave the ball away cheaply. The first goal changed a lot of things - we switched off and lost our shape,” he said.
He added, “However, we improved in the second half and now, we have to pick ourselves up and get ready for the next match against Afghanistan.”
The head coach reserved a special mention for the Indian supporters, who came out in large numbers to support the team at the Prince Saud bin Jalawi Stadium, and added to the atmosphere with their chants and drums.
“They really gave the boys a lot of confidence,” Floyd quipped.
“They continued to support us even when the chips were down and we were behind. At half-time, we could hear the sound of their drums and roars in the dressing room and that really made an impact on the players as they went out for the second half. I hope we can give them a good result on Sunday.”
Defender Narender Gahlot stressed on the importance of playing as a unit.
He said, “We win as a team and lose as a team. We have been in such situations before and know exactly what we have to do. All of us are in this together and now, we have to lift each other up and take the three points in our last game. The whole team feels the responsibility to recover and everyone is determined to bounce back.”
The 18-year-old, who will join the Blue Tigers next for their upcoming Fifa World Cup qualifying fixtures against Afghanistan and Oman, also echoed his coach’s sentiments as he hailed the support shown by the Indian residents during the match.