INDIA HAVE RECEIVED a tough group placement in the AFC U-16 Championship 2020.
In the draw of lots held today in Malaysia, the Blue Colts were picked to play against some familiar opponents in the Group C of the continental championship to be held in Bahrain this November-December.
India will start their campaign on 26th November against the formidable Australia who have been semi-finalists thrice; including in the 2018 edition. The team had a good run of form in 2019 and is currently riding a 5 match win strak including the AFC U-16 Qualifiers.
Their next encounter will be on 29th November against South Korea, the same team that knocked India out from AFC U-16 Championship 2018. That quarter final match had India missing a couple of key players and after a tight contest, South Korea snatched a 1-0 win to make it to the semis where they met Tajikistan. It was a thrilling game that ended 1-1 and went into penalties. Both sides kept converting their spot kicks until in the 7th shot South Kora finally buckled under the pressure. Tajikistan won the shootouts 7-6, before going down to Japan 1-0 in the final.
India's final group stage match will be on 2nd December against another familiar foe: Uzbekistan. The two have met before in the AFC U-16 Qualifiers; where India took a lead through Nongmeikapam but with less than 10 minutes to spare, Uzbekistan drew level and the game ended 1-1. India were the group toppers with Uzbekistan finishing with the same number of points but a worse goal difference.
For Blue Colts, this will be a task as hard as it can get. But if they can start off their campaign well, they'll have a chance to repeat their 2018 feat of progressing to the knockouts of the championship.
In Quarter finals, they will face one of the teams from Group D, which includes defending champions Japan along with Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and China.
A win in the quarters not only provides passage to the semi-finals but also guarantees qualification in the U-17 World Cup.
If these boys under the tutelage of Bibiano Fernandes can can achieve that, they'll go down in history as the first Indian football team to play in a World Cup competition by merit.