Luis Norton de Matos's India U-19 side has entered the home stretch in its preparations for the upcoming AFC U-19 Championship qualifiers to be held in Dammam, Saudi Arabia next month.
India have been grouped with Yemen, Turkmenistan and Saudi and only the top nation from each group will directly qualify for the continental competition to be held in Indonesia in 2018. Apart from the group winners, the five best-placed second teams will also make it to the tournament.
Matos has decided to keep the core of his U-17 side intact for the next mission while a number of well-known young players including Edmund Lalrindika, Pranjal Bhumij, Princeton Rebello have joined the sessions.
The Portuguese coach will be concerned by Anwar Ali's injury as the central defender spent time with the physio on Saturday and still looks days away from getting ready for first-team action. Komal Thatal, the stylish left-winger of the team, also spent time on the sidelines and didn't take part in the practice session.
The injury woes only got worse this evening as Rahul Kannoly, the utility player who had played as both right-back and left-winger in the World Cup, picked up a groin injury, the severity of which is yet unknown.
On the other hand, goalkeeper Sunny Dhaliwal has joined the practice sessions, even though he was not named in the list of probables announced by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Friday.
After the departure of long-time goalkeeping coach Mario Aguiar, former Mahindra United goalkeeper Gumpe Rime has been summoned to look after the fledgling shot-stoppers. The Arunachal Pradesh-born veteran has already made a name for himself as a coach and was part of Stephen Constantine's coaching staff for a few weeks earlier this year.
The team will be leaving for Doha on October 25, where they will play a friendly against Qatar U-19 before going to Damman. The matches are scheduled to be held on November 4th, 6th and 8th.