Currently in their last exposure tour prior to the AFC U-16 Championship Malaysia 2018, Bibiano Fernandes, India U-16 National Team Head Coach says the team has “improved significantly” since the time the boys played the qualifiers in Nepal. In an interview after the team’s 1-2 loss to Oman, Fernandes talks at length about the improvements, the determination in the squad, the defensive lapses against Oman and much more. EXCERPTS:
Oman was the ninth AFC U16 Championship qualified nation who you have played in less than a year’s time. How do you sum it up?
It is great to have played more than half of the nations who have qualified for the AFC Championship before the tournament actually kicks off. These exposures which the AIFF and SAI have provided us with have been truly great and we’re extremely thankful to them for supporting us to prepare for the massive test.
How do you define the impact of those matches played against such quality opponents?
The experience has been massive for us. Those matches have helped us learn and assess ourselves before the next one (match) arrives our way. We have improved significantly since the time we played the qualifiers in Nepal and we have proved it several times.
It’s just one month to the biggest test for the team. How is the team shaped up before that?
We are working hard day in and day out on the ground and we are striving to attain the success. This exposure trip is the last opportunity to test ourselves before the AFC Championship and we won’t let this opportunity go. Over the last months, we have been in a constant process of learning and improving simultaneously and we are ready to challenge others in Malaysia.
After a string of successful results, we went down 1-2 to Oman. What particularly went wrong?
A couple of defensive lapses from our defenders cost us dearly and you can’t expect a strong side like Oman to spare those chances. We regrouped well and started controlling the game more often in the second-half. Although we don’t prefer giving excuses, a 1-2 loss against such odds rightly underlines my boys’ temperament and gritty character.