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U-17 World Cup: India’s fringe players have 90 minutes to impress coach as they tackle Mauritius in friendly

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by September 19, 2017 General

Panaji: Except probably for one position, India coach Luis Norton de Matos is pretty sure about his starting eleven for the Fifa U-17 World Cup opener against the United States on October 6.

The Portuguese coach has another 48 hours to make up his mind over the 21 players who will represent the country at the first-ever football World Cup. For the players who are still unsure of their place, they have just 90 more minutes.

“My plan was to watch these players during the last two friendlies and then make up my mind. I will decide on my squad after the friendly against Mauritius (on Wednesday),” Matos told TOI.

India’s original plan was to have least two international friendlies this month. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) sounded out teams like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and South Africa; even agreed to pay the travel fare, but with most disbanding their teams after failure to qualify for the World Cup, not many could agree to travel to India.

Mauritius, fortunately, agreed at short notice, but whether they will provide the Indian boys with a fitting challenge remains to be seen. The visitors landed in Goa only on Tuesday and will play the friendly just 24 hours later at the Nagoa ground in South Goa.

“I have an idea of what I am doing. I am pretty sure with my starting eleven. Probably just one position which I will decide after seeing the players in the friendly,” said Matos, whose team lost 0-1 against FC Goa’s developmental team in a closely-fought battle last week.

Matos must leave out five players from the existing squad, a task the coach believes is “quite difficult.”

“First and foremost, I don’t think Fifa should restrict the registration (of players) to just 21 out of which three will be goalkeepers. That leaves me with 18 players, not even two players for each outfield position. If there is a muscle injury for a player, and there is a possibility that he will miss the first one or two games, should I leave out the player completely and not give him the chance to play the third match,” asked Matos.

At least one player – Boris Singh – will miss the opening clash against US after being suspended. He picked up a red card against Iran in the U-16 AFC Football Championship last year and the card will be carried forward to the World Cup, India’s next official competition.

“If we have a situation like we have with Boris for the opening game, we will have just 17 outfield players eligible for the match. That’s not ideal,” said Matos.

The deadline for final registration of players is September 21.

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