India Under-17 football team coach Luis Norton de Matos said he is proud of the display of his wards during the Fifa Under-17 World Cup after a 4-0 defeat against Ghana in their final group match in New Delhi on Thursday.
India started the night well by pushing forward in attack and troubling Ghana but the African side proved to be too good for them over the 90 minutes, handing the hosts their third defeat in three matches.
Speaking after the match, coach de Matos said the Ghanians were the better side and rued his side’s inability to stay in the match for the full duration.
“For me, Ghana is the strongest team in this group. We can be proud of the attitude of our boys,” de Matos said. “I think we knew we were going to suffer in the third game. We played two hard games and this game was one step too far. At half-time, the team was physically tired, finished. They were fantastic all tournament.”
The Protuguese touched upon the difference in the physical abilities of the two teams.
“The brain doesn’t work when you’re tired. We made three mistakes that we didn’t make in previous games. Ghana could play eight games within the gap of three days,” he said.
On asked about the path forward for this team, he responded saying “tomorrow is a new day.”
On conceding nine goals in three matches, de Matos became a little tetchy and elaborated about where the Indian team lacked compared to their opponents.
“I would like to see any national team play these teams in official competition,” he shot back. “I’ve talked a lot about the gap between these teams. The experience of suffering stupid goals is an important process. Today if we play against Nepal, Maldives it is fantastic for these boys.”
“It’s important to build the culture. India needs a football culture, with four , five and six year olds playing football. I would have loved to play New Caledonia or Chile at this moment but people shouldn’t have expected this team to play Ghana. New Zealand lost 0-13 in 1997 and it is now at every World Cup. Two months ago, we played Mauritius and they didn’t have a single shot on goal. These boys have progressed and other Indian teams would do worse against the national sides we played,” de Matos explained.
Speaking about the strategy for this match, where he made four changes but stuck to the same midfield-heavy formation from the first two games, de Matos insisted that starting two strikers up front would have matters worse.
“We would have lost 7-0,” he said. “[Rahim] Ali is a fantastic player but he didn’t touch the ball. The forwards know the limit. The control wasn’t there, it is a tough zone to play, the forward. If I had two or three Ghana players, we could have done better. Ghana were faster, stronger and more intensive.”
He was also asked about Komal Thattal’s absence in the last two matches after he impressed in the first game against USA and de Matos went on the offensive.
“I never talk about individual players. If you think Thatal can play against Ghana and Colombia with his physique and he can win duels, you are a very good coach,” he replied.
De Matos also discussed in length about how these kids can improve in the coming years.
“The coaches of Chile, Colombia, Ghana said we are a very organised team. The progress is slow, it’s very important for the process that they play in I-League but this experience is better than I-League,” he said. “I know that when ISL teams go play European fourth division, they lose. Its the truth. When [these kids] play 18 games in the I-League, they will be stronger and catch up to the competition.”
He said that his future as the coach is still open for discussion and that an official position will be taken after meetings in the coming days.