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AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers: Gameplay, Indian stars and what's in store for the future

Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar

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The Indian U-16 National Football team gave the fans a lot of hope for the future, having lost no games in the build up to the AFC U-16 Championships. 

After winning the SAFF U-16 Championships in dominating fashion, India U-16 prepared for an even bigger challenge as they were placed in Group D in the AFC U-16 Championship qualifiers with Iraq, Nepal and Palestine. Bibiano Fernandes' boys had some good form coming into the tournament which was vital for their qualification for the AFC U-16 Championship played at the Halchowk Stadium, Nepal, the elite tournament when it comes to youth Asian football.

India had played the SAFF U-16 Championships and thwarted the host country Nepal in the final at the same venue. The young Tigers kicked off proceedings in the group in their first match against Palestine impressively, scoring three beautiful goals in the second half, with bright talents like Givson Singh, Bekey Oram and Vikram Pratap Singh all getting on the score-sheet for India.

The second match of the group saw the favourites to win the group, Iraq, take on hosts Nepal in a competitive encounter. Both teams cancelled each other out before substitute Salah Ghazi Talib scored the winner for Iraq. They only consolidated their strong-hold in the group even further in their next game against Palestine, where they proved why they were strong favourites to top the group, scoring four past the hapless opposition. India had to get a win to regain their strong-hold in the group and knew that a win against Nepal could help guarantee their qualification for the AFC U-16 Championship.

While India have enjoyed a rather successful record against Nepal U-16 in the past few months, the Gorkhalis came out adamant to put an end to that domination. Nepal fought tooth and nail for the win even after going down 2-1 in the final minutes of the match thanks to a brace from substitute Harpreet for India, and the hosts pegged back and made it 2-2 through Birjesh Chaudhary, who himself got a brace for Nepal. This result meant that India had to get something out of the Iraq game, which was going to be very difficult.

India showed a lot of heart in their final game against Iraq, the defending champions. Fernandes' young boys held Iraq to a 0-0 draw with a gritty performance, which meant that the fate of India's qualification would rest upon the final game of the group between Palestine and Nepal. 

Nepal took an early lead through Birjesh Chaudhary, but Palestine showed immense resiliency to come from behind to win the match and shock the hosts. This would confirm India's qualification for the AFC U-16 Championships as Fernandes' boys can now look to showcase their talent on the continental stage.


ALSO READ: 

India holds defending Champions Iraq to qualify for AFC U-16 Championship 2018

AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers full match replay: India 0-0 Iraq

India held by Nepal in thrilling AFC U-16 Qualifier

AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers Live Streaming: India vs Nepal

India U-16 Cruise To Victory Against Hapless Palestine

AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers Full match replay: India 3-0 Palestine


India U-16 All Goals in AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers and SAFF U-15 Championship 2017

RECORD

The India U-16 team holds a distinct record so far as the team is yet to lose a single competitive match ever since being formed in 2016. After their debut game against AL Ahyl which they won 2-1, they have had 8 victories in 12 competitive games. The young Tigers have managed to contain sides like Iraq and Qatar and have only drawn four of those 12 games. 

Here's India U-16's record so far.

India 2-1 AL Ahyl
India  3-1 AL Smouha
India  9-0 Maldives
India  2-1 Nepal
India  3-0 Bhutan
India 2-1 Nepal
India  1-0 Qatar
India 2-2 AL Saad
India  5-0 AL Duhail
India  3-0 Palestine
India  2-2 Nepal
India  0-0 Iraq

GAMEPLAY AND POSITIONING

Fernandes has nstuckly stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation for his side in these competitive games and that has worked wonders so far. The reliable Jongte is shielded by his defence which comprises of Samir Kerketta or Ahmad, hard-working, solid right-backs who occasionally provide attacking threats. The central partnership of Thoiba Singh and Harpreet Singh has been immense for the country, as both of them compliment each other really well. While Thoiba's a ball-playing defender, Harpreet is someone who covers him really well when he barges into tackles. Gurkirat Singh has made the left-back position his own with some commendable performances in the past, as his defensive quality makes him an asset for India.

The midfield duo of Ricky John and Sailo have given Fernandes a lot of success in the middle of the park. They keep possession really well and also provide cover to the defenders, with John being a clever defensive midfielder. Givson is a terrific set-piece provider and is capable of making unpredictable passes with his sweet left foot. The attacking prowess of India comes from the trio of Givson, Bekey Oram and Ravi Bahadur Rana. Bekey and Rana have proved to be the stellar wingers, also drifting in, allowing the attacking full backs drift wider. 

India also have some cover on the bench in Lalrokima and Harpreet, with the former being an electric, tricky winger and the latter proving to be a super-sub for India.

The young Tigers attack is spear-headed by Vikram Pratap Singh, who is a really clever footballer. He has the ability to draw out the defenders and creating chances for himself with his off-the-ball movement and has the eye for goal as well. Singh's lethal finishing ability and predator instinct makes him a top striker who looks to be in for greater things for the country if he keeps up his work-rate over the years.

Final Standing of the AFC U-16 Championship 2018 Qualifiers

FIVE INDIAN PLAYERS TO LOOK OUT FOR IN THE FUTURE

Vikram Pratap Singh

India U-16 captain Vikram Pratap Singh looks like a star already, as he has all the tools needed to be a deadly striker for India in the future. Vikram Pratap often played as the lone striker for Fernandes' team, with his stunning movement and finishing ability, helped India score several crucial goals. He led from the front and if he keeps up his amazing work, he'll be known throughout the country in no time.

Givson Singh

Givson Singh was another player who really impressed as he was the perfect midfielder for the Indian U-16 team. His pinpoint passing, aggression in the midfield is what is needed in the middle of the park and he also has a sweet left foot which is capable of producing some world-class strikes. Givson's free-kicks and set-piece delivery is top notch and the left-footed central midfielder is a unique find from Fernandes.

Bekey Oram

Bekey Oram was somebody who has linked and supported Vikram Pratap Singh amazingly well as he's also a clever attacking midfielder. Oram played just off Singh for India but his clever movements and eye for goal. Bekey Oram was somebody who has linked and supported Vikram Pratap Singh amazingly well as he's also a clever attacking midfielder. Oram played just off Singh for India but his clever movements and eye for goal makes him a difficult man to contain for opposition defenders, while his defensive work has also been top-notch.

Gurkirat Singh

While India's defensive display in the qualifiers were brilliant, one man who stood out among the rest was Gurkirat Singh. The left-back is not only a threat when he's attacking, but he also showed immense defensive skills throughout the tournament and was a vital part of containing Iraq in the final game. He has a sweet left-foot which is capable of commendable crossing and showed himself to be a future left-back for India with some of his performances.

Lalbiakhlua Jongte

Over the years, India have produced some amazing goal-keepers and this has continued at the U-16 team as well where Lalbiakhlua Jongte who has been a guardian angel for India over the past few months. Jongte has consistently made some stunning saves and has a safe pair of hands as the future of India's goal-keeping looks to be very bright as well. The Colts will need to keep on improving if they hope to surprise everyone with a positive outing in the AFC U-16 Championships next year.

Published: Tue Sep 26, 2017 07:00 PM IST

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