India U-20 Football national team head coach Shanmugam Venkatesh stressed on the importance of starting the SAFF U-20 Championship on a positive note ahead of their first match against Bangladesh.
The SAFF U-20 Championship kicked off at the Kalinga Stadium here on Monday with Nepal and Bangladesh posting wins against the Maldives and Sri Lanka, respectively.
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“It’s always important to start any tournament on a positive note. Not only does it give you the confidence to iron out any early jitters, but it also gives you momentum, which you can build on,” said Venkatesh.
The SAFF U-20 Championship will serve as a preparation for the AFC U-20 Asian Cup Qualifiers, which are set to take place in September.
“There’s nothing better than preparing for an international competition by playing more international matches,” said the head coach. “This team is playing in an international competition after almost two years because of the pandemic, so it’s always going to be a special feeling for the boys.”
The India U-20 side, however, have played together as a unit for the last two seasons, competing against senior opponents in the Hero I-League.
“The Indian Arrows project has really helped develop these players and helped them move up to the next level. Most of the boys in the U-20 side have either played in the Arrows or are currently playing in some senior team or the other at the domestic level, which is great,” quipped Venkatesh.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh head coach and technical director Paul Smalley Thomas believe that India are “always” competitive at the South Asian level. “I think all the teams are competitive, but India will especially be even more so at this level,” said Thomas. “I was here in the SAFF U-18 Women’s Championship as well, and we narrowly missed out on the Championship to India. So it’s always a difficult game.”
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