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India's U20 AFC CUP Qualifiers Campaign: Key Take Away Points.

Updated: Aug 13, 2023

India's U20 AFC CUP Campaign has come to an end after two losses and one win in their group. The U20 AFC Asian Cup 2023 will be conducted in Uzbekistan where Uzbekistan, Saudi, Qatar, Japan, Australia, Iraq, and other qualified teams would be fighting for the silverware. The current champion of this tournament is Saudi Arabia of the 2019 edition and the most successful team is South Korea which has won the title 12 times.

India was drawn into a group that had Australia, Iraq, and Kuwait. Iraq and Australia are considered as one the contenders for the main competition. Iraq has already won the competition before and at present few of their players play in European top leagues. It was always a difficult task for India to get past this group, for a country that is yet to start football development extensively from the grass-root level.

Match Overview:

India has won only 1 of their 3 matches and is out of the main event in Uzbekistan. India's 1st match was against Iraq where even after taking the lead in the first half India conceded 3 goals in the 2nd half to give away 3 points to Iraq by a score line of 4-2. India showed good quality in the attack against a more qualified side, but the weakness in India's defense cost them the 3 goals in 2nd half.

Previously in the SAFF U-20 championship this year this team's poor defense almost cost them the trophy which they were expected to win easily. In SAFF the quality of the attack and the results overshadowed their defensive weakness but in the Asian Cup qualifiers, India played against much tougher opponents. In the 2nd match, India played Australia considered to be one of the bests in Asia and topped the group as well. After conceding 2 goals in the 1st half India showed fighting spirit and was able to pull 1 back through forward Gurkeerat Singh who has earned lots of praise in the Indian Football community for his ecstatic performance in the SAFF and the AFC Cup.

When suddenly there was hope again some silly mistakes cost India 2 more goals at the end of the match. Mistakes in front of an opponent like Australia will cost you. India lost the match by 1-4 and practically all their chance to qualify when out of the window. India played their next match against Kuwait, in the match, they took an early lead through their captain Taison Singh with a powerful finish. Kuwait dominated the midfield quality wise but India was good on the wings where their players showed good technique, passing, and positioning.

The match went to half-time with India leading 1-0 and Kuwait creating pressure to find the equalizer. India in 2nd half the same thing happened as Kuwait played passing and possessions football and tried to create chances, on the other hand, India also was able to threaten Kuwait's defensive third by playing on the break and quick transitional football.

Kuwait managed to find a goal back from a beautifully struck free kick by Saleh Almehtab but soon after 3 mins, Gurkeerat Singh scored from India's freekick outside the 18-yard box of Kuwait through a powerful strike that no way the Kuwait Goal Keeper could have saved. Gurkeerat scored his 3rd goal of the match with that goal one against each side. The match ended with a 2-1 scoreline and India finished 3rd in the table.

Gurkeerat Singh:

He is a good player. He can control the ball, he can score from long range, he has got shot accuracy and power, and also good physically. He scored 8 goals in SAFF U-20 Championship and 3 in the AFC U-20 Asian Cup qualifiers.

Currently, he has signed for ISL side Mumbai City FC. As the Indian system is not that developed he should look for opportunities outside India for his own development because ISL won't help him to reach his full potential and mostly youth players don't get much game time in ISL.

Matters to be noted!!

This U-20 side has potential. This set of players has better quality, technique, and understanding of the game than the previous U-20 team who plays at the senior level now. The All India Football Federation must adopt a league structure to provide an ample amount of games to these players in domestic seasons and all which has been lacking in India till now. After U-16 compared to the no of matches a player of a developed football nation plays, Indian players do not even play 40% of that, and hence we often see at the level from 16 years to 22 years a huge gap is created between Indian players and for eg Saudi or Japanese players.

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