AFC U22 India vs UAE: ‘We are able to change the natural game of opponents’ -Arthur Papas

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The momentum is with India and they are sustaining it alright. A resurgent Indian football team continued their great work in the AFC U22 Championship Qualifiers to corner UAE and snatch a draw which may well have been a win for us.

A positive result was very much needed in the match against UAE. And the job has been done of stealing points from the team which has already qualified for the London Olympics 2012.

In an exclusive chat with the India U22 football team coach Mr. Arthur Papas, we talk about the match against UAE, our progress in the tournament and the positive change in the team.

Somesh:  A 1-1 draw against UAE. A great result or a match that we could have won. What would you call it?

Arthur: I feel as though I could repeat the same answer that I gave after the Iraq game about initial expectations on June 1st when I began with the group compared to our current situation.

Firstly, yes this is a very positive result for Indian football tonight because not only was the result satisfactory but the manner in which we played was what was impressive. Tactically we improved in our ability to build up from the back constructively, play though the midfield and change the point of attack, I felt we had more control in possession than the previous game and for the second game in a row were able to alter the natural game of the opponent. 
 
As a result the game still could have gone either way because the UAE is a very good team who still were able to have their own positive moments over the course of the 90 minutes. What impressed me though is after conceding such an early goal it could have been easy for our playing group to panic and change our developing game. However, for the second game in a row the players showed a great response and just before half-time I could see that the UAE had changed their structure defensively because we were starting to control the game more and more. 
 
Again, we had a plan that we were not willing to settle for a narrow loss and as long as we could stay in the game in the second half and not concede early then we would have our opportunities. Again, we scored late and at that stage in the game we created the necessary chances to win the game. Overall, a very positive night for all of Indian football.
Somesh: We managed 4 points from 3 games and the 2 toughest games are over. Aren’t we at a great position in the tournament now?

 Arthur: I’m of the opinion that when we are coming from the starting position we hold internationally there is not an easy game in football, whether that is playing Iraq, UAE, Lebanon or Turkmenistan. They are all teams that at this stage in our football development we have to respect and not start thinking we can underestimate anyone. Our approach throughout this tournament has been to only look as far as the next game and ensure we pay every team the same amount of respect but with the thought that we are not daunted by any opponent, as long as we keep ensuring we prepare as thoroughly as possible.

 Right now the UAE game is already a thing of the past. We will evaluate as a group tomorrow the main learning moments from this game and again look to improve on these for our next match. Turkmenistan is now the biggest challenge we face and it’s important that complacency does not creep in, we all understand this is a game that to win we will to need have maximum concentration, tactical discipline and to maintain the standards we have set for ourselves.
Somesh:  We had the major share of possession and we built more attacks. We earned 5 corners in initial 40 minutes but could not score. Where were we faltering. Did Alwyn’s absence affect us?
Arthur: It was not about faltering. Tonight in the final third what we could have done better was show more composure to aid these situations, but this is not due to any specific individual playing or not playing. This has more to do with the team’s overall understanding of using the qualities we possess to unlock defences, this goes from the basic positioning to how we are receiving the ball to also playing the game at a speed that we can control. In the future we will improve in this area but this will only come about through repetitious efforts of match situations so then the basic ideas become easier to visualize.
 Again you cannot only look at your own team because you have to see what type of defensive structure the opponent plays with. UAE up until tonight had not conceded a goal and we are the first team to score against them, they possess players who are very strong in 1v1 defending, collective organisation when we had possession as well as aerially, all these are qualities needed in the defensive moments.
Somesh: In all the matches played so far, the boys have shown great strength of character. Earlier we used to concede goals in the final minutes. Now we are reversing the trend. How did this change come about?
Arthur: I think this is something of inherent behavioural trait in this generation of players or within Indian culture. They have a real fighting mentality and all my job has been is to look at ways to bring this to the surface. Indian culture has strong family values and each day I am learning more and more about the culture plus the playing group. Therefore, we treat our team with these same values both on and off the field because we are all together for so many days that it becomes imperative that we are all working for a common goal and respecting each other. Top top teams in the world have shown many times that unless the teams values and dynamics are working in harmony then the chance of success is minimal. 

 
Again, all the credit must go to the players and what I hope I have brought to this group is a set of shared values that allow them to believe more in themselves and understand that as a team we must stay true to these values in order to succeed. I always reiterate that it is not about winning as a one-off result but more about working together and being able to look at each other at the end of the game and know inside that every single member of the group gave their all to help the team!
Somesh: Thank you for talking to IFN and wish you and your team have a great tournament ahead!
Arthur: Thanks a lot.

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