Both the sides have been given tough groups in their respective competitions.
The Indian youth teams gear up for their respective AFC Championships Qualifiers, as both the India U-16 and U-19 teams have been drawn in tough groups.
It will be a test of character from the Blue Colts as they will have to fight it out against the best in Asia. The India U-16 national team has been drawn in Group B of the AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers alongside hosts Uzbekistan, Bahrain and Turkmenistan. The qualifiers are set to kick off from September 18-22 this year.
India U-16 are alongside hosts Uzbekistan, Bahrain and Turkmenistan in Group B
The Blue Colts were in the limelight of the whole nation with their top-notch performance in the AFC U-16 Championship last year, as they were one step away from qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2019. The Bibiano Fernandes led side lost out by fine margins of 1-0 against heavyweights South Korea in the semifinals.
However, Bibiano Fernanes is again at the task to better his team’s last year’s performance. Hence the U-16 side has started preparing for the upcoming events and participated in the MU-15 Championship, a four-nation tournament in Italy consisting of teams like the USA, Slovenia and Mexico. Although the Blue Colts lost their games against USA and Mexico and earned a 2-2 draw against Slovenia, it was an experience and learning that they will look to savour in the upcoming qualifiers.
Following those matches, the boys also shocked the entire nation with a 1-0 win against Qatar U-15 side and followed it up another narrow 0-1 loss to Macedonia.
Similarly the there were draws for the AFC U-19 Championship as well where the Indian U-19 side led by Floyd Pinto are drawn in group F alongside hosts Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. The qualifiers will kick off from 2nd -10th November.
Head Coach of the Indian U-19 National Team Floyd Pinto said, “It is a tough draw for us and we are aware of the strengths our opponents possess. But at the same time, the boys have shown that they can fight against some of the best teams (in the Hero I-League) and we are hopeful of our qualification chances”
India U-19 are placed alongside Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan
“We would have to be on the top of our game if we are to qualify from this group”, he added.
Most of the U-19 national members have featured for the Indian Arrows this season and have fared out pretty well under the tutelage of Pinto. However, against challenging oppositions, it will be a test of their character and tenacity.
The last edition of the qualifiers back in 2017 also the colts were clubbed alongside Saudi Arabia as hosts, and despite a 3-0 win over Turkmenistan and a 0-0 draw against Yemen, India got knocked out after suffering a crushing 0-5 defeat against Saudi Arabia. The same team went on to become champions of the AFC U-19 Championships last year. Floyd Pinto and his boys will be hoping to return the favour this year though it is a pretty uphill task.