India face Uzbekistan in their U-16 Asian Cup opener
Tehran: An acid test awaits India as the country`s promising young footballers get ready to start their campaign in the competitive Under-16 Asian Cup with a match against Uzbekistan here tomorrow.
India who earned a ticket for the final phase in October 2011 in Tashkent, are clubbed with Syria, China and Uzbekistan in group D.
The top-two from each group will qualify for the quarterfinals while the four semifinalists get a direct entry into the U-17 World Cup. That means, India stay four matches away from earning a spot in the World Cup.
The road ahead, though, will be fraught with obstacles.
"International exposures at this age matters. Uzbekistan go into the match with more confidence than us. But we will be competitive," chief coach, Colm Toal, said on the eve of the match.
Toal is aware that it would take a lot of doing for his boys to make an impression in a tournament in which they are pitted against the cream of Asia -- Japan, the two Koreas, Australia, and Iran to name a few.
The Indian boys understand that they need to perform to their potential as they stand on the threshold of history.
"From the batch of 2008, Lalrindika Ralte, Manandeep Singh and Shilton D`Silva have already played for India," Toal recollected.
Having earlier coached China and Uzbekistan, Toal knows their footballing structure, the age-group teams more than anyone else.
"We need to be competitive and we will," he reiterated.
Former Indian national coach Rustam Akramov, presently the director of Uzbekistan side, seemed happy with the preparation.
"We have trained for 73 days abroad for the championship and have played 24 international matches. This U-16 bunch of ours stays more tactically organised than our U-19 batch," Akramov stated. Both teams had their first practice session at the Rah Ahan Stadium, the venue for the match.