New Delhi: Rank-outsiders India may have a "small percentage" of winning their tournament opener in the FIFA U-17 World Cup against what he expects to be an attacking USA team, coach Luis Norton de Matos said on Thursday.
"USA and for that matter, Ghana and Colombia in our group are big sides, top-level teams. We know we have a small percentage of winning against the US but you never know what will happen in a game of football," de Matos told reporters at the match-eve press conference.
"We will prepare well for this small percentage and try to make these small possibilities count. We want to fight as a team and with help from the 12th man (the home supporters) we hope we can compete against them," he added.
Portuguese de Matos said India, making their debut in the FIFA U-17 showpiece event, would look to be a strong defensive unit and hit on counter attacks through quick transitions from defence to offence.
"I would like to have an effective defence as the US are very strong in attack. They have the No. 9 (Josh Sargent) and Timothy (Weah) and Andrew Carleton, they are very good attackers. They are a physical side also and they worked very hard. So, it will be a tough job for us," the India coach, who took over in March 2017 said.
"My players know how to play against the US. We have seen video footages of how they play. We will try to make a game and match them on the field tomorrow," he added.
Sargent is one of the most talked about young talents in the US. He was part of the US team that reached the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea in 2017. He is set to join the Bundesliga (German League) side Werder Bremen in 2018 when he turns 18.
Weah is the son of former World Player of the Year and Liberian legend George Weah and he has recently been signed by Paris Saint-Germain.
"My players know the importance of good defence. If you have a good defence you can win matches. If you don't have a good defence you will concede goals and lose matches. An offence is important but we have to build on good defence," he said.
Captain Amarjit Singh said that he and his team-mates will give more than 100 percent on Friday.
"It is a World Cup match, we have been dreaming to represent the country in a World Cup. Nobody knows when this chance will come to an Indian player. We want to do something for the country and make India proud," said the 16-year-old Manipuri.
"We made sacrifices, we did not meet our parents for a long time for this World Cup. So, we will not let this chance go away. Sixty thousand people will come to the stadium and will support us and the whole of India will watch us play on the television. For this moment only and for the country, we have made these sacrifices," he added.
He said the players are focussed on the game against the USA and not thinking of any other things.
"We will fight as a unit and are ready and prepared for the tournament," said Amarjit.
De Matos said that his players have made a lot of improvement in defending and then in making transitions to attacking, He, however, said his boys are lacking in finishing.
"Since I took over the boys have made a lot of improvement. Earlier, they played more direct football but I have a different philosophy and I wanted more possession football. They have learnt a lot and they are making improvements in defence and in transitions.
"These two lines — defensive and midfield — are very important and we have to close down the gap between these two lines against an attacking side like the US. But whether these improvements will be good enough against the US or other teams in the tournament, we don't know. We have to see," said de Matos.
Regarding the attacking aspect of his players, he said, "A side like the US will score from three chances on an average but we may take seven chances to convert into a goal. That is the difference."
He understandably did not reveal who will come in place of right fullback Boris Singh Wangjam, who will not play on Friday after being red-carded in India's match against Iran in the AFC U-16 Championships in 2016.
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Updated Date: Oct 05, 2017 21:57:19 IST