Boys shaping up well for U-17 World Cup: Bhutia

Kolkata, Sept 22:

Indian football icon Bhaichung Bhutia was all praise for the national U-16 side who have produced an impressive performance in the qualifying round in Iran.

“They showed a lot of promise and very hard working. It’s extremely satisfying that the boys qualified on their own and credit should be given to them,” the former India captain said here today.

“They lost just one match but did fantastically well against Bahrain and Lebanon that shows that the team is shaping up really well for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017.”

India thrashed Bahrain 5-0 and Lebanon 6-0 in the qualifiers at Tabriz City to finish second in Group E. India gets an automatic qualification in the 2016 AFC U-16 Championships as host country but would have otherwise booked a berth on merit as one of the second best placed teams from across the 11 groups.

Nepal, who finished second in Group B in the qualifiers, took India’s place and made it to AFC Under-16 Championships final round to be held in India from September 15 to October 2 next year.

On the Stephen Constantine-coached senior team who just have just one win and have lost three consecutive matches (1-2 to Oman, 1-2 to Guam and 0-3 to Iran) in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Bhutia said that the Englishman must be given some more time.

“Obviously the performance was not up to the mark but let’s not forget that Stephen played with many new players… It was like a new team. You can’t compare Indian football with English Premier League or the way it’s played in Europe. They don’t change the national squad often. We have to make sure that club and federation are ready to release players for a long time,” he said.

“We have to give him (Constantine) some more time. I’ve always maintained priority should always be given to the national team if they play well football in India would improve.”

Bhutia said India must push the I-League without thinking about merging it with the Indian Super League.

“We have to push the I-League. Right now there’s need to have both I-League and ISL together. In terms of standard of play, and the quality of the tournament it’s very difficult to merge ISL right now,” said Bhutia.

“We have to make sure that I-League is so much of push that it reaches the level of ISL and then we can think of merging the both,” he said. PTI


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