India have been pooled in one of the toughest groups, the group of death one could say, in the official draw for the upcoming AFC U-16 Championship 2020 that was held in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. Placed in Group C, India will have to fight it out against Asian football heavyweights South Korea and Australia as well as Uzbekistan for a place in the quarters.
Having reached the quarterfinal stages in 2018, their highest ever finish at the tournament, expectations are high on the young Indian football team but the challenge ahead is tough.
Two-time champions South Korea topped their group in the qualifying stages, winning all three of their matches against Thailand, Chinese Taipei and Myanmar. They hammered in 13 goals, including a 10-0 win over Chinese Taipei, and conceded none in the 3 matches to stamp their authority. Australia also won all four of their qualifying games to make it to the main draw.
Under Bibiano Fernandes, the Indian colts themselves 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.
Here is the complete breakdown of AFC U-16 Championship 2020 groups drawn:
Group A: Bahrain, North Korea, Iran, Qatar
Group B: Tajikistan, Oman, Yemen, United Arab Emirates
Group C: South Korea, Australia, India, Uzbekistan
Group D: Japan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, China