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India U-16s placed alongside Iran, Vietnam and Indonesia after AFC U-16 Championship draw

Written by: Tushaar Sachdeva

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It is time to put our trust in the young colts again, but with a different contingent.

The India U-16 boys are preparing to take on Asian giants in the AFC U-16 Championship to be held in Malaysia from 20th September to 7th October later this year. After the overwhelming response by the masses to last year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup, the fans are more aware of the developments surrounding youth football in India.

India U-16s have had a rather disappointing history in the tournament, reaching the quarterfinals in 2002 to the latest being knocked out in the group stage itself when they hosted the previous edition of this prestigious event. Iraq emerged as the champions then and will start this edition as favourites.

The qualifiers for the tournament were conducted last September with a total of 45 teams battling for 16 spots, further divided into groups. India had a challenge in their group with Iraq being the dominant force, having also finished as the runners-up in the previous edition. However, they came out with flying colours, finishing second behind them without losing a match in the process and winning their ticket to the main tournament as the best runners-up.

This is how they stood before the draw took place

The draw for the tournament took place earlier today and India have been placed in Group C with Iran, Vietnam and Indonesia. India were in Pot 3 based on the rankings by AFC in this particular format.

Iran topped the qualification group which also included Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon and Bhutan. Iran will be looking to go all the way in this edition after losing out to Iraq in 2016 on penalties, as they are set to embark on their eleventh campaign. They finished second in 2000 and won the tournament in 2008.

Vietnam, like India, qualified as group runners-up with their wins against Cambodia and Mongolia, staying behind Australia after suffering a defeat against them. The Golden Dragons were ruthless in their wins in qualifying, netting a total of 14 goals before meeting the Aussies in their final game.

Former Semi-Finalists, Indonesia come back to the event after their last appearance in 2010. They did qualify for the 2016 India edition but were suspended by FIFA and then were barred from entering any international football tournament. Indonesia topped their qualifying group but were placed in Pot 4 due to their ranking, hence, becoming the fourth-placed team in Group C.


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Indian team has, since then, defeated a lot of good club sides and recently participated in a tournament in Spain, losing closely against Norway and the USA.

The boys, under Bibiano Fernandes, have looked good and are likely to punch above their weight, if given the right treatment and exposure. The team is on a rigorous footballing journey around the world and are expected to travel to Serbia for another exposure tour, and are likely to play ASEAN countries like Thailand and Indonesia to prepare for the Championships. The U-16 team will also be camping with the Indian Arrows squad in Goa from the 10th of May.

The boys have already had stints in Qatar, Japan, South Africa and Spain amongst others. The AFC U-16 Championships are scheduled to be held in Malaysia from September 20 to October 7.

When the players take the field, the silverware will not be the only thing up for grabs. The top four teams from the tournament will be awarded automatic qualification to the FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru 2019.

Published: Thu Apr 26, 2018 02:13 PM IST

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