| India under-20 footballers (from left) Mehtab Hossain, Ghulam Rahim Nabi, S. Malswamtluanga and Ashim Biswas with coach Islam Akhmedov (centre) at the SAI Eastern Centre Monday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: The final round of the Asian Under-20 Football Championship starts in November and having made the cut, the Indian team is currently training under Uzbek coach Islam Akhmedov.
The coach is trying to use the experience and confidence gained at the recently-concluded Under-17 Asian meet to go a step forward and make it to the under-21 World Cup. The under-17 team reached the quarter finals in Abu Dhabi before losing to South Korea. The top four from the under-20 event will be selected for next year’s under-21 World cup.
“We were kept wanting in the dead-ball situations and my boys were often overpowered by the tall defenders. I’m making my under-20 boys work more on these areas,” Akhmedov The Telegraph Monday.
Akhmedov informed that most top teams in Asia are no longer following the 3-5-2 format. The ‘sweeper-back’ position is going out of favour and the teams are reverting back to the traditional four-back system.
“It’s difficult to get my boys used to a new system overnight, but I’m working on how to counter the 4-5-1 that is being followed by the top teams,” Akhmedov said.
However, the coach sounded a little displeased with the decision to add more players to the camp since he was working with a fixed set of 20. “It’s difficult to chalk out a proper strategy until I get a set team. And it’s beyond my understanding why more players have been called to the camp,” the coach quipped.
He informed the final squad will be picked on Friday.
The coach is pleased to know that the team will get to play some practice matches in Uzbekistan. “This tour will be good for us. We may also play some matches with the Bengal Santosh Trophy squad.”
Akhmedov, however, hastened to add it will be “really tough” for India in the final round of the Asian meet in Qatar in November.
“We have been clubbed with Japan, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia. Our first aim will be to beat Bangladesh and then get at least one point from the next two games.”
Metsu meets Indians
Meanwhile, the under-17 boys, during their trip to Abu Dhabi, met Senegal’s World Cup coach Bruno Metsu. “He is coaching a Saudi Arabian team and we met him at the hotel,” Akhmedov said. “We were pleasantly surprised to find that he is such an unassuming man.
“My boys were really thrilled when the world famous coach talked to them and took photographs with them.” Akhmedov, however, said Metsu didn’t have any idea about Indian football.
“We could talk for just a little while, but in that short span, the Frenchman showed interest in soccer in this part of the globe. I had so many things to ask, but there was hardly any time,” Akhmedov said.