Bengaluru, June 18: India have been drawn in the tough Group C along with two-time champions Korea Republic, Australia and Uzbekistan for the 2020 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-16 Championship to be held from November 25 to December 12 in Bahrain.
The draw was held at the at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday (June 18).
Sixteen teams will vie for top honours with the four semi-finalists of the competition set to earn a direct qualification for the FIFA U-17 World Cup to be held at Peru in 2021.
India qualified for the AFC U-16 Championship when they finished as Group B champions in Tashkent from a group which had Uzbekistan, Bahrain and Turkmenistan.
HERE. WE. GO! ✅🔥— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) June 18, 2020
India 🇮🇳 have been drawn alongside Korea Republic 🇰🇷, Australia 🇦🇺 and Uzbekistan 🇺🇿 in Group C of the #AFCU16 Championship Bahrain 2020 🙌#IndianFootball #BackTheBlue #StarsOfTomorrow pic.twitter.com/qWTVLM6hqt
The Indian colts finished with seven points from three matches scoring 11 goals, while conceding 1.
This is the third consecutive time that India have made the cut for the AFC U-16 Championship and ninth overall.
India U-16 national team head coach Bibiano Fernandes said his team were looking forward to the tournament
"I don't like to pre-empt any expectations prior to the start of the competition. At this level all the teams are tough to play against. We as a team have improved over the years. I'm sure that the boys - much like myself, are looking forward to it," said Fernandes.
Incidentally, the Indian colts had faced Uzbekistan in Tashkent in the qualifiers in 2019 with the match ending in a 1-1 draw.
"When we last played Uzbekistan in Uzbekistan, we discovered that they were such a composed side. There's a long gap between the qualifiers and the U-16 finals and it's understandable that they've had ample time and opportunity to improve as a team. But we're ready for the challenge," Fernandes added.
In the last edition in 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, the U-16 boys stayed a win away from a direct qualification into the FIFA U-17 World Cup when they lost to Korea Republic by a solitary goal in the quarterfinals. That was India's second entry into the quarterfinals, the earlier being in 2002.
Three-time winners and defending champions Japan are drawn in Group D along with Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and China.
(With AFC Media inputs)