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AFC U-16 Championship 2020: India brace for tough challenge in group stages

AFC U-16 Championship 2020: India brace for tough challenge in group stages

The Bridge Desk

Published: 15 Jun 2020 6:13 AM GMT

The official draw for the upcoming AFC U-16 Championship 2020 is set to be held in Kuala Lumpur this Thursday, 18th June, 2020 around noon time. Having reached the quarterfinal stages in 2018, their highest ever finish at the tournament, expectations are high on the young Indian football team.

However, this time around, things might be a little bit more trickier. The Indian colts could potentially see themselves being pooled together with some of Asia’s heavyweights in the group stages itself.

The 16 countries which are set to take part in the Championship have been distributed among 4 pots, the pot allocations are as follows:

Pot 1: Bahrain (hosts), Japan, Tajikistan, South Korea

Pot 2: Australia, North Korea, Indonesia, Oman

Pot 3: India, Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia

Pot 4: China PR, Uzbekistan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates

Each group for the final tournament will be formed by taking one team from each pot. As a result, India might very well have one or two of Japan, South Korea, North Korea, and Australia in their group. Given the pot allocation, the best possible group for India would be — Bahrain, Oman, India and Uzbekistan. The worst possible group would be — three-time champions Japan, two-time champions North Korea, India and Qatar.

Under Bibiano Fernandes, the colts have been putting up a good show consistently over the last one year or so. With two wins and a draw, India managed to pick up seven points from three matches to finish as table-toppers above Bahrain, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan in the qualifiers held in Uzbekistan. Before that, the team enjoyed a 11-match winning streak, and also won the SAFF U-15 Championship in dominant fashion.

Hopes are high on this young team as the top four teams in the AFC U-16 Championship, i.e. the semifinalists, will automatically qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup. If Bibiano and his boys succeed, they'll become the first Indian team to qualify for a World Cup on merit.

The tournament was scheduled to be held fromSeptember 16 to October 3 in Bahrain is likely to be postponed to November due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Also read: India U-16 football team qualifies for 2020 AFC Championship

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