`India have bright chance to qualify for Asian Cup main round`

Kolkata: Impressed with the U-22 national trials for next year`s Asian Cup (qualifiers), AIFF technical director Robert Baan today said despite being in a tough group, India have a good chance to qualify for the main round.

"We have been drawn in a tough group. But I`ve confidence to qualify for the next stage. If not by becoming the group toppers but by being the second best team," Baan said after the trials on Monday.

"It`s been only few days here for me. It`s a short time to say how good they are. But I`m impressed if not disappointed from the lot," Baan said.

Baan stressed on the importance of getting more exposure for the players compared to the ones in Europe where "you start playing at competitive level at very young age".

Baan, along with head coach youth development Colm Toal, were here at Pailan in the outskirts of the city to conduct and select 30 boys for the preparatory camp, which would be held prior to the qualifiers scheduled from June 23.

Altogether 64 boys, including those from AIFF`s youth development team Pailan Arrows, were attending the trials that would conclude on Saturday.

India kick off their campaign against Lebanon on June 23, while other teams in Group A are Oman, Iraq, UAE and Turkmenistan. Baan said the upcoming four regional academies to be set up by FIFA was a step in the right direction.

"The forthcoming regional academies which are being set up are very significant. One needs to remember we won`t deal with U-16 boys in the academies; rather we are focusing on U-14 boys.

"They stay a step to shape the future. The I-League clubs need to follow the model," he said.
Asked whether the Premier League Soccer, involving former World Cuppers, was a good idea, Baan said, "I will always love to support any idea of raising the level of football in India if it`s under the umbrella of AIFF."

In-charge of the youth development programme for five years, Toal said, "Coming up of Baan is really a positive thing for India. His experience will help us in the long run. Four FIFA academies are coming up with one here. These are really very positive steps."


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