India gear up for Qatar in AFC U-19 qualifiers

Doha, Oct 3 (IANS) India may not wear the favourites tag in their Group ahead of the Asian Football Confederations (AFC) U-19 Championship (Qualifiers) but they can surely roll back time to draw a lot of inspiration as they gear up for hosts Qatar in their opening match at the Al Arabi Stadium here Friday.

The present bunch came agonisingly close to qualifying in the quarterfinals of the AFC U-16 Championships last year in Tehran and that must inspire them.

In a match they should have won, the Indian U-16 team narrowly went down to eventual champions Uzbekistan, losing 2-3 in their first Group D encounter and were later held by Syria and China to goalless and 2-2 draws, respectively.

"It's a tough Group no doubt and there is no denying that we are not the favourites," head coach Colm Toal told reporters here Thursday.

"We haven't played Qatar in the recent past and it would be an interesting battle. They are a very good side and we have to put our best foot forward. We have a young side with really good players who have been doing well as a unit. Let's hope for the best," added Toal.

In a Group that boasts of FIFA U-20 World Cup quarterfinalists Uzbekistan, hosts and 2012 AFC U-19 Championship finalists Qatar, Turkmenistan and Nepal, India will have to put together a string of good results.

"We have been very competitive in AFC Tournaments. We have had some very good individual results but have failed to put together a series of wins," Toal said.

"We will try to put together a series of good performances again over the next ten days and there is no denying that it's a tough group we are in. We have to put our best foot forward," he added.

The Indian U-19 Team, comprising of AIFF's Elite Academy Boys based in Goa, can take confidence from the fact that since February 2013 they have been on an 23-match unbeaten streak.

But certainly, AFC Qualifiers is a different ball game altogether and Toal is aware of that.

"The fact that we have been doing well in the matches we have played coming into the Tournament will give a Boys the confidence needed. But AFC Qualifiers will be much tougher and competitive," Toal maintained.

"Certainly results are not everything for age group teams but you don't have good players in a poor team. We have some very good players which reflect that we are good as a Team too. Now we have to translate that form here," Toal stated.

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