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India clubbed with Iran, Vietnam & Indonesia in AFC U-16 Championship finals

India U-16 national team at the 2018 SportChain Cup in Spain. (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)

India have been clubbed with strong contenders Iran, Vietnam and Indonesia in Group C of the 2018 AFC U-16 Championship Finals scheduled to be held in Malaysia in September/October 2018. The official draw for the Championship was held at the AFC headquarters today, April 26.

India had qualified as second-best team from the AFC U-16 Championship qualifiers in Nepal 2017, where the young guns had held defending champions Iraq to a 0-0 draw in the last match of the group. In the other two matches, India had accounted for Palestine 3-0, while they were held on to a 2-2 draw by hosts Nepal in the other match. This is India’s third qualification to the AFC U-16 Championship finals from the last four editions.

The tournament will be held in Kuala Lumpur from September 20 to October 7, 2018. However, the official match dates haven’t been announced as yet.

The last edition of the AFC U-16 Championship finals was held in Goa in 2016 and Asian Football Confederation’s General Secretary Dato Windsor John lavished praise on the success of tournament. “The AFC U-16 championship has a long and a broad history. The last edition in India was not only a huge success on the field but it is also regarded as the defining moment for Football and youth development in the country,” he said in his address.

Reflecting on the draw, Indian Head Coach Bibiano Fernandes said that the team will “take one match at a time.”

“We have been drawn against some of the best youth teams in the region. We respect our opponents. But we will take one match at a time. The aim of all the participating teams is to make it to the semi-finals,” he stated.

As per the norm, the four semifinalists will earn a ticket to the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru.

Bibiano Fernandes felt the exposure tours being provided by AIFF for the team to prepare in the best possible fashion has been adding to the confidence of the boys.

“The exposure tours have been a huge help. It is helping the team to gear up for the big challenge. We will aim to play to our strengths,” he maintained.

India’s Fixtures

September 21: Vietnam vs India
September 24: Islamic Republic of Iran vs India
September 27: India vs Indonesia