India U-23 coach Derrick Pereira: Qatar friendly will help gauge our strengths

Derrick Pereira has the task of leading the India U-23 team in the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) U-23 Qualifiers in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, from March 22nd.

With less than a month in hand, the Men in Blue concluded a five-day camp at the Tilak Maidan stadium in Goa before they face the Qatar U-23 side in a friendly match at the Aspire Academy ground in Doha, on Monday evening.

Wth the number of injuries and players missing out due to their respective club commitments, the Goan coach is not coming to any conclusions over their chances at the continental event unless after the Qatar game which kicks off at 21:30 IST.

"Only once we play Qatar, we will get a clear picture of our strengths. Then we will work towards that (qualification). Right now, the young players are ready to learn and work hard. We need to dominate matches by keeping possession, especially in the opponents' half. And if we defend compactly as a team, I think there are good chances," Pereira stated.

The second camp may give the India U-23 tactician more options as the squad is currently missing out on the likes of Provat Lakra, Ashique Kuriniyan, Jerry Lalrinzuala and Sahil Panwar owing to injuries while Hitesh Sharma is ruled out due to chicken pox.

India U23 national team training

Also without players such as Mohammad Nawaz (FC Goa), Nishu Kumar (Bengaluru FC) and Anirudh Thapa (Chennaiyin FC), the 56-year-old said, "I would have preferred them to be with the team for this match but they are not available because of their club commitments. With their experience, the team would look much stronger.

"If Bengaluru and Goa reach the [Indian Super League] final, then we will have four players who won't be joining us until the 17th of March. At the same time, we are trying to see if we can get in some more players," he added.

With the players at his disposal, Pereira mentioned that he is happy with his midfield but would like to see more options in the attacking third. "I am happy with the midfield. I'm sure they will perform well but it all depends on who is the guy who will put the ball in the net."
 

The 23-member squad for the Qatar friendly:
 
GOALKEEPERS:  Dheeraj Singh, Prabhsukhan Gill.
 
DEFENDERS:  Narender Gahlot, Sarthak Golui, Wungngayam Muirang, Mehtab Singh, Anwar Ali, Asish Rai.
 
MIDFIELDERS:  Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Vinit Rai, Sahal Abdul, Amarjit Singh, Deepak Tangri, Rohit Kumar, Suresh Singh, Komal Thatal, Boris Singh, Rahul KP.
 
FORWARDS:  Liston Colaco, Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Rahim Ali, Rohit Danu.