Kuwait city, Oct 14 (UiTV/IANS) – India will be looking to take every opportunity to qualify for the AFC U-20 Asain Cup Uzbekistan 2023, when they begin their campaign against Iraq at the Ali Sabah Al-Salem Stadium here on Friday.
India have been placed in Group H, alongside the likes of Iraq, Australia, and hosts Kuwait, and head coach Shanmugam Venkatesh believes that it is imperative that the Blue Colts give equal importance to every game.
“Every game is important for us. It is not just an opportunity for us to play, but to qualify for the AFC U-20 Asian Cup as well. That’s the main aim for us,” said Venkatesh. “The boys are quite confident and we will fight for every game here.”
Venkatesh believes that doing well in the first game will be of paramount importance to the Indians to carry the momentum forward.
“Our first game is very important. Not only do we want to get off to a good start, we are also playing a team like Iraq which is a very physically strong side,” he said. “I think we do have a good chance whenever we play any age group tournaments, and we can compete. If we have a positive mindset and maintain our focus, we could have a dream start.”
The India U20s have been together in camp since August, and Venkatesh believes that the fitness of his players could benefit them in Kuwait.
“We had a short break after winning the SAFF Championship, and have been training in Kolkata after that. The boys have worked really hard, and are confident for the Asian qualifiers,” he said. “On the domestic level, our preparation has been great, and we have played friendlies against some of the top local clubs.”
However, the former India captain and current U-20 head coach will be banking upon the character the team has shown in the past.
“SAFF was a very different tournament, and the level here will be higher as we are playing some of the best teams in Asia,” said Venkatesh. “But the character that the boys have shown is incredible, and the fact that they can come back from tricky situations bodes well for all.”
On the other hand, Iraq head coach Imaf Mohammad Ridha believes that all the teams will start at an equal pedestal, and everyone has the same chance to qualify.
“It is no doubt a difficult group. Australia are one of the strongest teams in Asia, and Kuwait are also a good team. India are a developmental side, and have done very well recently. I feel there is a fair chance for all the teams to qualify, but we are ready for all our matches,” he said.
India’s game against Iraq will kick off at 7 PM IST on. October 14, 2022.