Indian U-23 football team wants to emulate seniors in SAG: Coach

Shillong, Feb 5 (IANS) India’s Under-23 men’s football team’s head coach Lee Johnson said on Friday his boys want to emulate the senior team and win the South Asian Games (SAG).

The senior team beat Afghanistan in the final to win the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship for the seventh time recently. India will take on Sri Lanka in SAG’s opening match here on Saturday.

According to rules, the tournament is an U-23 one with three overage players allowed (as per rules of the Asian Games). However, the Indian squad will be fielding only two overage players while all the rest are below 23, including three players who are Under 19.

“The boys want to capitalise on the recent success of the senior team where they had gone to win the SAFF Cup. Some of them were part of the triumph, and there are also some who have played for the senior team in the recent past,” Johnson said in an All India Football Federation (AIFF) release on Friday.

“As individuals, they all want to do well and everyone is positive and confident.”

Johnson said though they did not have much time with the players but the training has been great.

“We didn’t have much time with the players but from as and when we assembled, we have gone well in terms of training. We have trimmed the squad to 20 players on basis of players which we had available with us,” he said.

Speaking of the three Under-19 players who are included in the squad, the Englishman stated: “The players are there on merit and bring value addition to the squad. In international football, it is simple – if you are not good enough, you won’t be there. It’s a good opportunity to develop younger players.”

Johnson added they cannot afford to take any team in the tournament lightly and that the players need to stay focused.

“In international football, you cannot take any team lightly. We respect them (Sri Lanka) as a team as much we believe they will respect us as a team. The players need to stay focused. The weather here is so much conducive for football,” he said.

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