India U-16 national team crashed out of the Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) U-16 Championships after coming up against a strong Iran outfit on Wednesday evening. Nicolai Adam, the India U16's head coach opined that Iran were worthy victors.
"First of all I would like to thank all the people that attended the game today. Such numbers are a rarity even in Europe, for U16 games – so big thank you from everyone on our team (to the audience). Apologies for not being able to qualify (to the next stage); 0-3 sounds pretty clear but it was closer than it looked in my opinion. Congratulations to Iran, they had a lot to lose and they delivered. If they were to lose to India, they had to go home without qualifying for the World Cup which would be bad for them," opined the national U16 team's gaffer.
Adam disagreed with some of the refreeing decisions, though he quicky pointed out the application and effort of his players was far greater than a few decisions.
"I am not complaining about the referee but the second yellow card (Boris Thangjam) looked harsh from a distance. I am not sure about the penalties and those were decisive moments in the game. We have to learn from these mistakes – we win or we learn. These boys have a long distance to go and this experience will help them at the World Cup.
"We have a 'never say die' mentality in this team and we will look forward to the next opportunity for us which is the BRICS U17 Cup," underlined the former Deutsche Fussball Bund (DFB) development coach.
India conceded four penalties in three games in the competition and when asked if defending is an area of concern, Adam replied in the affirmative.
"My players try to play honest and Narender, who conceded the second penalty, said he didn’t touch the Iran player. But generally, yes you are right. Playing one-on-one is the most important thing in football and you need to be smart aggressive when you do that," the former Azerbaijan U17 coach admitted.
The post-match press conference was then witness to a session of deductions when Nicolai Adam insinuated the presence of age cheating in Asian team, based solely on his account of his team's performance against Bundesliga U17 clubs and German national U17 players.
"This is my first contract in Asia. We play matches in Germany with this team against youth Bundesliga sides, against teams from where the German national coach of that age group scouts from and we have no problems in the ‘one-versus-one’ situations with them or stamina problems with them. Is Germany a good football nation? I think yes. Have they ever won the U-17 World Cup? No. Come to your own conclusions
"Number 17 for Iran (M.Ghaderi) for sure yes, he is a good player. But Ninthoingamba is one of our quickest players and he has no problem in Germany to track their wingers’ runs – the same wingers who play for the German U-17 national team. There you go," Adam expressed.
India began the game with two of the squad's goal scorers, Aman Chetri and Aniket Jadhav, on the bench. Adam revealed that he had chosen a rather conservative approach and he was happy with the outcome until half-time.
"See, I began the tournament with five players less - four players because of the AFC rule and one is injured. I do not have a lot of options on the bench and had to resort to this tactic. The plan was to keep it at 0-0 for as long as possible and then bring on fresh legs. I was not unhappy about the half-time result. The plan was to pull one back in the second half and score one in extra time by introducing fresh legs," he concluded.