India U-19 coach Floyd Pinto believes that the experience gained from playing the competitive tournaments, in India and abroad, will help form a strong U-19 unit. Having led the team in international events recently, Pinto has voiced his optimism for the team making it into the U-20 FIFA World Cup.
Pinto, who is also the head coach of I-League team Indian Arrows, explained how the India U-16 national team, I-League, and ISL experience can help pave the way for the youth teams and form a strong base for the youngsters. He recently led the Indian U-19 national team on exposure trips to Croatia, Serbia, and Spain where they played two friendlies against the Serbian U-19 national team.
The colts also participated in an international quadrangular series in Croatia involving the U19 teams of Croatia, Slovenia
However, the team did turn the results around at the 2018 COTIF Cup in Spain where the side defeated the likes of Argentina U-20 and held Venezuela U-20 to a goalless draw.
"Playing at that level, the boys get a little bit more mature. Then another season in the I-League under their belt gives them
"The AIFF has decided that we won't be going for just camps. We will be going for competitive tournaments. Like for example, we played the COTIF where we beat Argentina. I think we got an invitation to play there again next year."
The U-19 team mostly consist of boys from the Indian Arrows set-up who upon returning from Serbia, played friendlies against Indian Super League (ISL) teams who were based in Goa at the time. With the 2018-19 season of the I-League approaching, Pinto's pre-season preparations are already in full swing.
"The pre-season that we had this year was a very tough one. That has helped shape these guys and improve their gameplay. So even when we played FC Goa or Chennaiyin FC, we were not that out of place even though they had their full quota of foreigners," Pinto remarked.
He further vouched for the national U-16 team saying, "They (India U-16) got a good amount of exposure, so it helped a lot," Pinto restated. "If you can create that kind of environment where we will be constantly playing against the kind of teams you are going to come up against, it gives the boys that confidence."
The boys led by Bibiano
"Now everyone would point out the one loss (against South Korea) but the fact that we were one match away from the (U-17) World Cup is a big thing. It's a big achievement for the boys, for Bibiano and his staff and the AIFF on the whole. It sets the bar now for every youth team,” he said positively.
He concluded stating, "We play the AFC U-19 qualifiers next year. The aim should be to qualify for the final phase and then make a final push for that (U-20) World Cup spot. With the right exposure, we can have a shot at it."
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