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U23 Asian Cup qualifiers: India’s opening match cancelled as Maldives withdraw late

India’s opening encounter in the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qualifiers, Group G, which was scheduled to be played on Wednesday, has been cancelled following last-minute withdrawal by The Maldives from the tournament.

The meet has now been reduced to a three-team group featuring India, hosts China and the UAE. 

India will now play their opening fixture of the tournament against China PR on September 9, in Dalian Suoyuwan Stadium here. 

Head coach Clifford Miranda maintained that his team’s focus remained the same despite the change in schedule. 

“Nothing changes for us; we have to do the same things that we would have done with the Maldives. We still have to do our best and play to our maximum potential,” Miranda was quoted as saying by the AIFF in its website. 

Looking at the positive side of things, coach Miranda was pleased with getting a couple of extra days of training in China but also recognised the drawback of not getting to play a game before facing the hosts.

He said, “The good part is that we get a few days of training together as a complete team. Also, the boys will get time to rest and recover, both physically and mentally, after an extremely long and tiring journey to China.

“Playing against the Maldives would’ve provided us a good opportunity to find our rhythm before facing China and UAE. Let’s face it, among the three, the Maldives were the least dangerous opponents and would’ve been a good starting point for the team to prepare for the other two.”

Miranda said the main objective remains the same despite Maldives’ withdrawal. “The group probably gets a little tougher but we had to play China and UAE anyway. So, our overall objective is still the same. We will give our best to try and qualify for the U23 Asian Cup.”

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