By Shraishth Jain
AIFF Media Team
AL KHOBAR (SAUDI ARABIA): India will go up against Afghanistan in their third and final match of the AFC U19 Championship 2020 Qualifiers on Sunday (November 10, 2019). Having finished on the losing end in their first two games against Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia, head coach Floyd Pinto stated that the team wants to finish on a "winning note" in their last fixture.
He told www.the-aiff.com, "We have treated every game like a final and will go into the Afghanistan match with the same intensity and attitude as we have. We know that they will also be fighting for pride and we can expect a good game against them. Playing three matches in five days is not easy and we'll assess the players and see how they recover. We are all determined to end this tournament on a winning note."
Floyd reflected on the result against Saudi Arabia, where the team lost by four goals - all of which came in the first half-hour of the match. He stated that against an opposition of the quality of the host nation, who are also the defending AFC U19 champions, one's errors will be punished.
"You cannot give an opposition like Saudi Arabia such easy opportunities to score. They are a quality team and punished us every time we gave the ball away cheaply. The first goal changed a lot of things - we switched off and lost our shape," he recalled.
He added, "However, we improved in the second half and now, we have to pick ourselves up and get ready for the next match against Afghanistan."
The head coach reserved a special mention for the Indian supporters, who came out in large numbers to support the team at the Prince Saud bin Jalawi Stadium and added a great flavour to the atmosphere with their chants and drums.
"They really gave the boys a lot of confidence," Floyd quipped. "They continued to support us even when the chips were down and we were behind. At half-time, we could hear the sound of their drums and roars in the dressing room and that really made an impact on the players as they went out for the second half. I hope we can give them a good result on Sunday."
Defender Narender Gahlot stressed on the importance of playing as a unit and stated that all the players are aiming to "bounce back" as one in their match against Afghanistan.
He said, "We win as a team and lose as a team. We have been in such situations before and know exactly what we have to do. All of us are in this together and now, we have to lift each other up and take the three points in our last game. The whole team feels the responsibility to recover and everyone is determined to bounce back."
The 18-year-old, who will join the Blue Tigers squad next for their upcoming FIFA World Cup 2020 fixtures against Afghanistan and Oman, also echoed his coach's sentiments as he hailed the incredible support shown by the Indian residents in Al Khobar during the match.
"It didn't feel like we were playing an away match, to be honest. They cheered for us throughout the 90 minutes even though we did not have a good start to the match. I sincerely hope we can express our gratitude by picking up three points versus Afghanistan," he mentioned.
The match between India and Afghanistan will take place at the Prince Saud bin Jalawi Stadium in Al Khobar on Sunday, with kick-off scheduled for 5.35 PM IST (3.05 PM local time).