After disappointing FIFA U17 World Cup campaign, what's next for the India U17s?
India U17s are to play in the 2018 AFC U19 Asian Cup qualifiers.
The 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup got over for India as they were eliminated in the group stage after losing all their matches against USA, Colombia, and Ghana with all three of them making the knockout stages.
However, the tournament was not a total disappointment for India as many Indian players as many players including the likes of goalie Dheeraj Singh and Anwar Ali impressed throughout the tournament. With several personnel from rival teams praising the Indian footballers in addition to the crowd cheering the performances, it is evident that this tournament will go a long way in elevating the popularity and globalisation of Indian football. Nevertheless, India still attained the forgettable record of the worst performance by a host nation at the FIFA U17 World Cup.
So the question is, what’s next for the Indian U17s? Currently, the U17 team is preparing for next year’s AFC U19 Asian Cup qualifiers which will commence in a few weeks. Inducted in Pot-4, India have been pooled in Group D of the qualifiers alongside Yemen, Turkmenistan, and Saudi Arabia who will be hosting all the matches of the group. India begin their qualifying campaign on November 4th against Saudi Arabia at Dammam following which, they’ll play Yemen and Turkmenistan on November 6th and November 8th respectively at the same venue.
All ten group winners in addition to the top-five group runners-up will qualify for the tournament. In the event of tournament hosts Indonesia winning their respective group or ending amongst the top five runners-up, the best six runners-up will qualify for the tournament.
India have qualified for the U19 Asian Cup 16 times, winning the tournament in Thailand in 1974 and coming third in the previous tournament at Iran in 1973. However, India haven’t been able to qualify for the tournament since 2006 when they hosted the competition and ended last in their group with a point.
This time around, though, looking at the potential of the current team who were able to give USA and Colombia a tough fight, India are definitely not entering the qualifiers to make up the numbers and will definitely be more than a match for the other three teams in their group.
Hence, it will be quite fair to say that the Indian U17 team has a pretty good chance of making it to their 17th AFC U19 Asian Cup.