India U-17 coach Luis Norton de Matos has given a strong warning to his outfit’s opponent in the upcoming U-17 FIFA Worlld Cup that they can compete with any team.
India have been pitted against South America powerhouse Colombia, two-time world champions Ghana and USA in Group in the impending tournament, which is slated to kick off on October 6.
But Luis Norton de Matos said that he has not lost hope of the country advancing beyond the group stages in the upcoming World Cup but termed his team’s chances in the prestigious FIFA event as “small”.
Addressing a press conference here, de Matos said even in case his boys fail to go beyond the group stages, they will show the world that they can compete at the highest level and do the country proud.
“I will be realistic, I would say we have a small chance, considering the draw. But it can still happen. In football you never know,” de Matos said when asked about India’s chances of going beyond the group stages.
“Even if we could not go a long way in the tournament, I am sure the players will be competitive. They will show that India can compete at the same level, against the best in the world,” said the 63-year-old Portuguese.
“This World Cup is the beginning of the football project in India, not the end. The performance of these boys will give a perfect start to this project,” he added.
India are clubbed along with strong teams Ghana (two-time champions and two-time runners-up), Colombia and United States. All of India’s matches will be played in New Delhi.
India will kick off their campaign against the USA on October 6 before taking on Colombia on October 9. The hosts will conclude the first phase with a match against Ghana.
“I always play for a win. I know it will be difficult to win against these sides. Ghana, US, and Colombia are very strong teams and they have prepared very well. But it (a win) can happen, you never know.
“We have prepared very well in the last 4-5 months since March. We had been to Europe for an exposure tour, have played 25 friendly matches and we are confident. Even if we have 5 per cent chance for a win, we will go for it,” he said.
Asked what could be the difference between India and the other teams, the Portuguese was quick to point out the number of competitive matches the European, Latin American and African teams have played.
“When we talked about these teams like Ghana, US, and Colombia, their players have been playing football for the last 10 years. They have the experience of playing a lot of competitive matches, in tournaments. That is the difference,” said de Matos.
De Matos replaced German Nicolai Adam who was sacked after complaints by the players of physical and verbal abuse.
“But we have improved a lot since I joined in March. The next two and a half months are crucial. We are trying out a lot of formations, combinations and working out on how to react to different situations.”