What's the story?
India's rivals in the 2020 AFC U-23 Champions Qualifiers, Tajikistan, has completed a two-week training camp in Antalya, Turkey. They drew 1-1 with the U-21 team of CSKA Moscow on February 6, whose senior team defeated Real Madrid 1-0 and 3-0 in the UEFA Champions League group stages before bowing out of the tournament.
In case you don't know...
India were drawn alongside Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan in the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers on 7 November 2018. FC Goa Technical Director Derrick Pereira will lead the side, whose preliminary squad features three players from the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and nine from the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
The heart of the matter
After crossing swords with CSKA Moscow, they battled out against the U-21 team of FC Vorskla Poltava on February 11. The team's senior side is currently sitting in the fifth position in the Ukrainian Premier League but, the young and vibrant Tajikistan side showed enough tenacity and persistence to hold them 1-1.
Two days later, the side locked horns with the U-21 team of FC Krasnodar, whose senior team is only a point behind league leaders Zenit in the Russian Premier League and reached the Round of 32 in the UEFA Europa League. However, the opposition humbled the Tajikistan team 3-0 this time.
"Today, the Olympic team of Tajikistan held a final training session at the Turkish gathering. Tomorrow, February 15, the delegation of our team will return from Antalya to Dushanbe. Upon returning home, the national team players will return to their clubs. The next training camp of the Olympic team of Tajikistan will be held in March," read their official statement.
India will face Tajikistan in their very first match at the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers on March 22. Derrick Pereira and his side would follow it up with matches against defending champions Uzbekistan two days later and arch-rivals Pakistan on March 26. India needs to finish top of the group or as one of the top four runners-up to qualify for the main tournament in Thailand.