The World Cup-bound India U17 football side made history on Friday, May 19, by defeating the Italy U17 team. As expected, plenty of plaudits and cheers followed. However, the sudden euphoria also makes us ask a pertinent question -- if it indeed is the perfect time for the Indian colts to get on cloud 9 or the media as such, to make such a hue and cry about their 2-0 win?
Well, if staying grounded remains the key, the time is now.
Of course, a win against the mighty Azzurri is a historic occasion but let's be clear, it may be only just the start of good things happening for coach Luis Norton de Matos and his young army. The road ahead is pretty difficult.
The match against Italy was just meant for practice and it wasn't even that hyped in Italy either. A quick check has revealed that the Italian media neither had a preview of the match nor reported it. According to several football fans, the Italy U17 side that played on Friday was only a second-string team.
The Azzurri are not a part of the FIFA U17 World Cup 2017, which boosts European teams like England, France, Germany, Spain and Turkey. Just the history of football development in these football-powerhouse nations has remained an example for countries like India, Japan and Iran, for decades.
Japan and Iran are already the heavyweights of Asia, while India are still work-in-progress.
The team must have a balance. If you score four goals but allow the opposition to score five as well, you lose. Hence, you must maintain equilibrium.
The team perhaps has not scored a lot of goals but the opponents haven't been easy either. We must work on the concentration of when we have the occasion to score. German, English, Brazil players score a goal in just two occasions but here (Indian team), sometimes they need four or five occasions to score a goal.
What I like about the team currently is that they go towards the goal and create occasions. Through our playing, we are surely going to find occasions to score but the problem is in the concentration. We have time to build this offensive side of the team.
In this situation we can't expect India to score a lot of goals against the opponents but we can prepare the boys for maintaining balance.
If you have the possibility to go in quarter-finals [of the FIFA U17 World Cup], we need at least four points - a win and a draw. I don't care if it's 1-0 or 0-0, we need the four points! I know my balance between the attack and defense so it won't be a problem.
- India U17 football team coach Luiz Norton de Matos (via Goal)
Having taken everything into consideration, let's just mention that the ongoing European tour is definitely a masterstroke from the experienced Portugal gaffer De Matos and it can only build the momentum as we approach the grand event in October 2017.
Most important thing of all is staying grounded.
What happened so far in the India U17 football team's European tour
India U17 1-1 Sant Leu (second division club side of the Paris League)
India U17 1-2 Vitoria de Setubal U17
India U17 1-2 Team Belenenses (Portuguese club)
India U17 2-2 SL Benfica U17
India U17 1-4 Estoril (Portuguese club)
India U17 0-3 SL Benfica
What next now?
The India U17 side will be participating in the Lazio Cup of Italy, which sees the participation of 16 teams including well-known Italian sides Fiorentina, Lazio, Sampdoria, Cagliari and Pescara.
Following the Lazio Cup, India U17 are scheduled to play against the Hungary U17 team as well as matches against Spanish clubs.