India lost 1-2 against Japan in a 5th WAFF U-16 Championship match here in their first-ever meeting between the two countries at this level but head coach Bibiano Fernandes said the “encouraging” performance will go a long way in boosting the confidence of his players.
India took the lead in the 26th minute through Vikram Pratap Singh when he converted from the spot but Japan came back in the second half to pump in two goals, one each from Kuraba Kondo (57th) and Shoji Toyama (64th).
“The performance would go a long way in instilling the belief not just within the team but among a lot of supporters and well-wishers and among all stakeholders that we can play,” Fernandes said.
“The goal was a special moment for all of us, scoring against Japan to take the lead is so much satisfying. We were upbeat and confident from the start and understandably there was a lot of excitement on the bench when we took the lead,” he added.
India have qualified for the AFC U-16 Championship in Malaysia and are currently on an exposure tour to Jordan.
“Undoubtedly Japan has been the best Asian team we have played so far. Their confidence on the ball, awareness and passing ability is exceptional. Taking the lead against such an opposition midway into the first-half is a huge motivation for us for the future,” he added.
“But this is not where the team would stop. We know there are miles to go and these boys have the capability to march on,” the coach said.
Asked what did he tell his boys at the half time, Fernandes said, “As we headed to the locker room after 45 minutes with a 1-0 lead, we were aware of the task we had at hand in the second half. We knew we would have to do a lot in the second half to maintain it because of the quality they (Japan) have in their team.
“Japan had an upper hand in the second half. We tried our best to defend as well as double the lead. But the quality of Japan was just a bit too good for us. We might have lost but the performance the boys against a team that is rated the best in Asia is really encouraging.”
India had beaten hosts Jordan 4-0 in their first match on August 1. They next play current AFC U-16 champions Iraq on Sunday.