Dalian (China): The India U23 side has been hard at work ever since arriving at the Dalian Sports Centre four days ago for the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qualifiers, even though their scheduled opening match against the Maldives was cancelled at the last moment, leaving them to adjust themselves to the revised fixtures.
The massive facility located in the outskirts of Dalian City, complete with nearly 20 football pitches, both indoor and outdoor, and the Dalian Sports Centre Stadium, which boasts a maximum capacity of 61,000, is the perfect set-up for Clifford Miranda’s boys to dial in and shut out all distractions.
Distanced from the hustle and bustle of a major city and surrounded by scenic hills, the India U23 side completed their fourth training session in China under head coach Miranda on Friday and look eager to put on a show in the match against hosts China PR which is set to kick off in the Dalian Suoyuwan Stadium at 5:05 PM IST on Saturday, the All India Football Federation sources said.
“Thankfully, because of the Maldives’ withdrawal, we got two extra days of training, which turned out to be a blessing for us. With the extra time in hand, the tactical knowledge I could impart to the boys has been very useful,” said Miranda, when asked about his training sessions over the last few days.
Miranda also said that he was impressed with how his players worked together and gelled in the short time since the new team was assembled.
“The attitude of the players and their desire to learn have been wonderful to see. The bond these players have formed among themselves in such a short period of time has led to a great atmosphere within the team. The fact that most of the players have known each other since their days in youth set-ups and clubs is an added advantage. I hope that the camaraderie and togetherness that I see off the pitch will be reflected on the pitch as well,” he said.
With the Maldives withdrawing from the tournament, the coaching staff got to watch the remaining two teams, China PR and UAE, play out a goalless draw in the first game of the meet on Thursday.
“We have two very good and strong opponents. We watched that China PR wanted to play on the counter, while UAE were more comfortable building up from the back. As of right now, though, we are completely focused on tomorrow’s game against China,” said the head coach.
“We expect them to come out very hard with a certain level of desperation as it will be their last match of the tournament, while for us it is the first game, which I’ve always maintained is the most important for any side,” he said.
Miranda added, “You may say that both teams are a level above us as of now, but if we stick together, play as one unit, and keep our tactical discipline, we, I believe, will get the desired results.”
In the end, coach Miranda said, “I can assure everyone that this team will produce a great performance tomorrow with a lot of grit and determination, which will hopefully be enough to get a favourable result.”