They thumped five goals past Bahrain and six against Lebanon in the U-16 AFC Championship qualifiers. They netted 33 times in just four games against teams from UAE. They also ground out wins over the youth teams of Bundesliga outfit FC Ingolstadt 04 and Bundesliga 2 side FSV Frankfurt. India’s football team being prepped for the U-17 World Cup in 2017 is a welcome change for followers of the Indian football team’s fortunes at the world stage, who are used to disappointments.
Nicolai Adam, coach of India’s U-17 football team, at Cooperage yesterday. Pic/Atul Kamble
However, Nicolai Adam, the man entrusted with coaching this team for the future, believes his wards are not ready to play in next year’s U-16 AFC Championship, let alone the U-17 World Cup.
“We’re very happy with the performance we showed in the AFC U-16 Championship qualifiers, but we lost 0-3 to Iran. I expect my team to beat the other teams. If we cannot beat Bahrain or Lebanon, we should seriously think about not playing the World Cup.
“If we were to play the U-17 World Cup today, we would lose all our group matches. We’re not ready. As for next year’s AFC U-16 Championship, we need more time to prepare. The semi-finalists in the last U-16 AFC Championship were knocked out early from this year’s U-17 World Cup. Even if you win the AFC U-16 Championship, it does not even closely mean you can go far in the World Cup. The level of footballers coming in from South America, Africa and Europe is amazing,” the German told mid-day yesterday.
Adam added that despite India’s goal-glut on their exposure trips to Spain, Germany and UAE, finishing remains a problem. “We’re just back from Dubai where we scored more than 30 goals in four matches. That sounds great but the finishing under high pressure is definitely a problem. Normally we create a lot of chances. But we lack in finishing.”
Adam was also keen to stress that the current 34-member squad at his disposal is not the final team that will play in the U-17 World Cup and he is looking at more players. While the crux of the players in the squad have been picked by All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) scouts, headed by former India striker Abhishek Yadav, the team will play in a series of matches against state sides, which will be their best players. Adam’s boys will take on a side put up by Western India Football Association at the Cooperage today at 6pm. The WIFA team includes probables from the city like Meet Jain and Sameer Kashyap while Mumbai’s Gaston D’Silva, Sourabh Meher and Manav Baraskar are part of Adam’s team.
“The scouting that has been done until I came and what we’ve done after I have been in charge is not going well. I’m sure there is more talent out there. We have to find those people, that’s why I brought up this idea of playing exhibition matches in Indian cities. We’ll do this till the end of April.”
Adam observed that Indian players’ growth was being hindered because they started out late. “The challenges Indian footballers face are the lack of infrastructure and the lack of football education at an early age. These players are all talented but they have missed a couple of years of training, which a European player has. This is a disadvantage. The good thing is that these Indian boys are a lot hungrier and they’re eager to learn,” Adam said before adding, “In order to compensate for the time the Indian boys have missed out on, we do a lot of training, more than players in that age group would have normally. We’ve also undertaken multiple exposure trips abroad.”