Having suffered a 3-0 loss against defending champion Uzbekistan in its opening fixture, the Indian U23 team will have its task cut out when it clashes against Tajikistan at Tashkent’s Report Pakhtakor Central Stadium on Sunday.
“It’s a very crucial game for us. It’s more important given the current standing of the table,” coach Derrick Pereira said. “You might say it’s do-or-die for us. We’ll surely try to put in our best performance and see what awaits us,” he added.
The Indian boys lost 0-3 against Uzbekistan and looking back, Pereira felt ‘inexperience’ cost the team dearly. “Uzbekistan were physically stronger, and technically better than us. Our inexperience cost us the match. We have got two chances in the first half. Had we converted, we could have got an edge,” he explained.
Unlike other groups in the qualifiers, group F comprises of only three teams which makes every single game hugely crucial in their pursuit of a berth in the finals, which is scheduled in Thailand next year.
“As we are playing only two matches, it’s tough for us to rectify things and implement them on the pitch within 48 hours of playing the first match. But, we’ll take the challenge head-on,” Pereira said.
“In football, you never give up. That’s the charm. We go to the next match with a positive mind set and put in our best performance. You never know, anything is possible in football,” he added.
Captain Vinit Rai said his team has the potential to make a comeback against Tajikistan. “We have made some mistakes and got punished against Uzbekistan. But if we are able to play to our true potential, we can surely get a positive result. We can’t afford any margin of error. We have to take the chances with both hands whatever comes our way,” he said.
The match will kick-off at IST 5.30pm on Sunday.