Indian colts will hope for a miracle when they face favourites South Korea in the quarter-final of AFC U-17 Championship at Kuala Lumpur on Monday.
If Bibiano Fernandes' wards manage to pull off a shock win, India will not only book a last-four spot but also qualify for the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru as one of the AFC representatives.
Against The Odds
Sixteen years ago, the Indian U-16 team lost to Korea 1-3 in the same stage.
"We know the Korea Republic are the favourites and we are the underdogs," head coach Bibiano stated.
"They are the overwhelming favourites."
"But we have been the underdogs since the group-stages and we are banking on the same against the Korea Republic," he added.
Bibiano said his boys will look to give Korea a run for their money.
"We all know the gravity of the moment and what it will mean for Indian football. But at the same time, we will play without pressure and back ourselves up as underdogs. We will fight," he said.
"If Korea Republic underestimate us, we shall prove them otherwise and give them a run for their money."
Korea Republic are already being touted as probable champions having scored 12 goals from their three group league matches without conceding any. India have also not conceded a single goal as yet but they will be hit hard with the suspension of central defender Bikash Yumnam for double booking.
"Bikash will not be able to play. There's no point of sitting back and lamenting. We need to go ahead with what we have. There are other players in the squad, all capable enough," Bibiano stayed.
"We all know the quality that Korea Republic possesses and we all know the damage they can do if we get complacent at the back. Our defence has been our strength in this tournament and the players have worked really hard to defend as a single cohesive unit," he quipped.
Building up to the clash, the Indian training sessions have been nothing short of gruelling with special emphasis being given to finishing.
"We have been creating chances and need to convert them. We could have easily won against both Iran and Indonesia. If we get complacent in front of goal, it will end badly for us," Bibiano said.
Anything Can Happen
Even the players are raring to go and again prove themselves.
"We will give more than our cent per cent in the quarters. These are the 90 minutes that we have worked hard and sacrificed a lot for," informed skipper Vikram Partap.
"Anything can happen in a football match and anything can happen in the elimination rounds. We cannot predict the future but will play our hearts out to make a dream come true."
Defender Gurkirat Singh added: "We are ready for them. We know the challenges we will face and the swiftness we will have to deal with. We need to stick to the instructions of the coach."
Korea Coach Hails Indian Colts
Meanwhile, South Korea head coach Kim Jung Soo credited the Indian side for being "deserving quarterfinalists".
In the official press conference, Kim said: "India deserve to be in the quarter-final stages and each team that has qualified for the quarter-finals should be considered as favourites."
"Each and every team has prepared under the same circumstances, but the Indian team has done well for themselves in the group stages," he certified.
Soo heaped praise on the Indian defence line that has not conceded so far in the tournament, saying: "The Indian defence line does its job well and I give them credit for keeping three clean sheets in the three matches of the group stages."
The Indian defence has held out the likes of Iran and Indonesia thus far and is looking to prove them once more against the Korea Republic, who have scored 12 goals in the competition, including a 7-0 mauling of Afghanistan in the group stages.
(With Agency inputs)