India U-19 Men’s Team had an impressive start to the SAFF U19 Championship, and they will be facing Bhutan with the aim of securing the top spot in Group B. The match is scheduled for Monday, September 25, 2023, at 17:15 IST at the Dashrath Stadium in Kathmandu.

In their first match against Bangladesh, India secured a comfortable victory with goals from Gwgwmsar Goyary, Naoba Meitei, and Arjun Singh Oinam, earning them three points. Bhutan, on the other hand, had a thrilling come-from-behind win against Bangladesh with a score of 4-3, which ensured their spot in the semi-final alongside India.

The upcoming clash between India and Bhutan will determine the group winner, and the winner will face the second-placed team from Group A, which could be Pakistan, Maldives, or Nepal. India has the advantage of superior goal difference and only needs a point to emerge as group winners.

India’s head coach, Shuvendu Panda, emphasized that their goal is to win every match, and they have two days of extra rest compared to Bhutan, which could work in their favor. Panda also mentioned that he expects his team to improve as the tournament progresses and emphasized that they take every opponent seriously, including Bhutan, who showed resilience in their previous match.

Bhutan’s stunning comeback against Bangladesh, where they came from two goals down to win, caught the attention of Panda, indicating that they won’t underestimate their opponents in the upcoming clash. The match promises to be an exciting one as both teams aim to secure the top spot in the group.

While impressed by his boys’ performance in the first match, Panda pointed out that he expects even more from them as the tournament progresses. “Definitely, there are deficiencies for every team in every game. We need to minimise them game by game. Our playing style depends on the opponent and needs to be adjusted accordingly in every game. As I said earlier, we are taking each and every team very seriously, and I do not think Bhutan is an easy team to play against,” he said. Panda was in attendance at the Dashrath Stadium to witness Bhutan’s stunning come-from-behind win against Bangladesh, where they trailed by two goals at the half-hour mark. However, the Hideharu Takahashi-coached side didn’t throw in the towel, drawing level before the break and nicking the win in the 84th minute.

Revealing his assessment of Bhutan, Panda stated, “We now have all the references about their game approach, and we are preparing our team based on their strengths and weaknesses which we gathered from their last game against Bangladesh. They are technically a good side. Of course, they have some weak links in defence since they conceded three goals.” Japanese coach Takahashi has been training this batch of Bhutan players since 2021, including at last year’s SAFF U17 Championship, where they lost 0-3 to Bibiano Fernandes’ India. “Our preparations were good. I have been in Bhutan for two years, and we have a different football style now,” said Takahashi.

Panda also agreed regarding their playing style. He stated, “They have been preparing together for a long time, so it is obvious their team communication is at a high level. That helps coaches to develop different playing styles. I do not think they will come up with a similar plan against us as they did against Bangladesh. It will be a different game. They must have also studied our match,” he attached.


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