Held as a biennial football event by the Asian Football Confederation, the AFC Under-16 Championships also serves as the Asian qualifiers for the 2019 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Peru. Malaysia hosts this year's Championship with the matches set to be held at Bukit Jalil National Stadium, UM Arena Stadium and Petaling Jaya Stadium.
North Korea is the most successful team in the history of the Championships with two Golds in Uzbekistan - 2010 and Thailand - 2014, two Silvers, and one Bronze. South Korea capture the second spot, winning in Qatar - 1986 and UAE - 2002 to record a tally of two Golds and two Silvers.
Japan occupies the third spot with two Golds in Qatar - 1994 and Singapore - 2006, one Silver and one Bronze.
India has competed in seven previous editions of the Championships. Their best performance had come in 2002, Qatar, where they lost to eventual Champions South Korea in the Quarterfinals. After a hiatus of 16 years, India entered the quarterfinals, finishing second in the Group Stage, their best achievement in the history of the Championships.
Let's look at the performance of the Indian team at this year's Championship along with some notable performances from the rest of the teams.
Group A - Japan 7 points, Tajikistan 4, Thailand 3, Malaysia 3.
Japan made seven changes to their starting eleven in their match against Tajikistan. Japan dominated the possession but was unable to get past the disciplined defense of Tajikistan. The best chance of the game came for Tajikistan through Rustam, whose overhead attempt sailed over the crossbar in the 80th minute. Both teams were unable to break the deadlock which resulted in a point each. Tajikistan's head coach, Zaynidin Rakhimov termed the result as an achievement for the team, as he thanked the fans for their support.
Japan drew with Tajikistan 0-0.
Ozodbek Panzhiev hit the target in the second minute which was well saved by the Thai custodian. Thailand's Thongbai shot wide, from an opportunity in the 13th minute as they found it tough to get past the water-tight defense of Tajikistan. Panzhiev unleashed a left-footed half-volley from Litfullaev’s cross to score. A free-kick for Thailand in the dying moments of the first half got saved by the Tajik goalkeeper.
Khasanov was finally beaten from a set-piece through Suphanat’s effort in the 80th minute. Tajikistan restored the lead immediately after Islom Zairov headed into an empty goal, earning Tajikistan a place in the quarterfinals. Tajikistan's head coach Zaynidin Rakhimov termed this victory as one of his best achievements, summing up the performance of the Central Asian team. Thailand needing a win to progress to the quarterfinals lost 1-2 to Tajikistan.
Tajikistan defeat Thailand 2-1 (TJK - Ozodbek Panzhiev 38', Islom Zairov 84'; THA - Suphanat Mueanta 80')
Japan (4) and Tajikistan (13) qualify for the knockout stages. Thailand (10) and Malaysia (11) were relegated.
Group B - North Korea 7 points, Oman 4, Yemen 3, Jordan 2
Jordan held much-fancied North Korea to a 2-2 draw. The North Koreans dominated the possession and created plenty of opportunities. Kang Song's strike, off a deflected free-kick, put DPR Korea into the lead. A cracking right-footed strike from Mohannad Semreen of Jordan brought the scores on level terms. Kang-Song found the net once again to restore Korea's lead a minute before half-time after he was set up beautifully by Ri Hun's cross.
Amin Farid's strike got parried away by DPR Korea's Ri Kyong Won, and the resultant follow-up got buried into the net by Amer Jamous, as Jordan found the equalizer to finish the match with a 2-2 draw. DPR Korea's coach Pak Jong-Chol though disappointed with the result, was happy with the performance of his wards.
North Korea drew with Jordan 2-2 (PRK - Kim Kang-Song 20', 44'; JOR - Mohannad Semreen 31', Amer Jamous 75')
An offside call on Yaseen denied Jordan the lead in the 30th minute after both teams got off to a cautious start to the match. Oman custodian Mitham brought out a brilliant save from Rashed to keep the scoreline 0-0 going into the interval.
A left-footed strike from Banihani after getting past two defenders broke the deadlock as Jordan surged into the lead. Oman came back immediately with a 1-2 between Al-Jaradi and Al-Satli which brought about the equalizer from Al-Satli in the 54th minute. Hamed's foul on Jordan's Jamous brought about a penalty and Jordan were in the lead again. Substitute Nasser capitalized on a defensive error from Jordan to level the scores.
Oman drew with Jordan 2-2 (OMA - Omar Al-Salti 54', Nasser Al-Naabi 86'; JOR - Reziq Banihani 49', Amer Jamous 75' pen)
North Korea (3) and Oman (5) as expected qualified for the knockout stages. Yemen (8) and Jordan (14) were relegated.
Group C - Indonesia 5 points, India 5, Iran 4, Vietnam 1
India created plenty of opportunities against Vietnam and should have been 3-0 up before they scored through the penalty. Vikram had a diagonal cross which defeated the Vietnam goalkeeper but found no takers as it went past the goalpost. The second effort from Vikram got stopped by Nguyen Duy Dung and Ricky John sprayed the follow up wide.
India looked dangerous up front, with a through ball for Lalchhanhima denied by a brilliant save from Nguyen Duy Dung. Vikram Partap was brought down by Dang Tuan and scored the resulting penalty to break the deadlock.
India defeat Vietnam 1-0 (IND - Vikram Pratap Singh 86' pen)
Iran started brightly with a couple of chances through Yasin Salmani but one was saved by the Indian custodian and the other rattled the crossbar.
Indian custodian Niraj Kumar was the star, in their match against Iran, after saving a penalty to salvage a draw. India almost snatched the match from Iran's grasp, but Lalchhanhime's effort missed the goal.
India drew with Iran 0-0
An energetic start from Indonesia saw David shooting high above the goal post in the second minute of the game. India employed the counter-attacks to good effect in the first half. Signaling their intentions clearly, Demello found India's captain Vikram with a cross which was headed wide of the goal post in the fourth minute.
Indonesia, on the other hand, created a plethora of opportunities with their rapid attacks. A long-range effort from the Indonesian captain David Maulana went wide of the right goalpost in the 30th minute. A quick counter from Indonesia in the 32nd minute produced a foul from India's Shabas Ahammed Moothedath against Indonesia's Mochammad Supriadi. The resulting free-kick bounced back from the wall.
India resorted to pressing in the second half, controlling the game better than the first half. A glorious opportunity for Amiruddin Bagus Kahfi got sprayed wide of the left goal post from the right corner of the penalty box. Bahadur Rana's freekick in the 60th minute got saved by the Indonesian custodian. A long-range effort from outside the box from Brylian Aldama from Indonesia went wide of the intended target.
India's clean sheet at the end of the group stages brought a smile on Bibiano Fernandes, the Indian coach. Ahead of the group stages, plenty of work needs to be done with the midfielders to set up goal-scoring opportunities. The forwards need to be more clinical.
India drew Indonesia 0-0
Indonesia stunned Iran 2-0 in their opening encounter in Group C. A square pass from Supriadi led to a smooth finish for Indonesian forward Amiruddin Bagus in the fourth minute. Indonesian goalkeeper Ernando pulled off two brilliant saves from Abolfazl Alizadeh and Hossein Hajizadeh to enter the break with a slender lead.
Indonesia missed a sitter when Amiruddin Bagus broke free on the left in the 51st minute. Iran's 85th-minute freekick by Hossein Shaverdi missed the goal by a whisker. Amiruddin Bagas Kaffa's injury minute strike sealed the victory for the Indonesians.
Indonesia defeat Iran 2-0 (INA - Amiruddin Bagus Kahfi 4', Amiruddin Bagas Kaffa 90'+1)
Vietnam played a high press while Indonesia relied on their counter-attacks. Vietnam midfielder Khuat Van Khang scored a screamer from a set-piece 30 yards out. Ha Trung Hau and Nguyen Quoc Hoang found themselves in a 1-2 situation on a couple of occasions but were unable to find the target.
Substitute Sutan Diego found the back of the net to tie the score for Indonesia following a counter-attack. Dao Ngoc Thanh rattled the bar in the 81st minute before Ernando scrambled it away to safety. Both teams tried hard to break the deadlock before settling for a draw.
Indonesia drew Vietnam 1-1 (INA - Sutan Diego Zico 49', VIE - Khuat Van Khang 30')
Group C was full of surprises, as Indonesia (16) and India (9) qualified for the knockout stages. Iran (2) and Vietnam (6), expected to top, got relegated.
Group D: South Korea 9 points, Australia 6, Iraq 3, Afghanistan 0
Australian forward Hammond missed an easy header after a deflection from the goalpost from Birkan's free-kick. Iraq's Ali Jasim was probing the Australian goal, but his attacks were cut down by sturdy defending from Australia. Defending Champions Iraq struggled to make inroads after they were down by ten men as Ali Kadhim got sent off after a clumsy tackle on Hammond in the 44th minute.
The deadlock ended with Australia producing the opener, through Duzel's half-volley which was set up by Hammond. Duzel played a through ball for Noah Botic who slid it past the Iraqi custodian to make it 2-0. Ali Jasem's work at the forward line paid dividends as he drew a foul from Jaiden Kucharski and Abdulrazzaq scored the resulting penalty.
Australia defeat Iraq 2-1 (AUS - Luke Duzel 67', Noah Botić 74'; IRQ - Abdulrazzaq Qasim 81' pen)
Korea rested their top players against Iraq and still played a solid game holding much of the possession. Choi Min-Seo had three chances in the first 15 minutes of the game, the header from Kim's went inches wide of the goal post while the other two got saved by Iraq's goalkeeper Al Hamadani. Kim Ryun-Seong was the architect of Korea's first goal skipping past three defenders to send a cross to Moon's diving header into the net from close range.
Korea started the second half with a bang, as Moon picked up his second, from Son Ho-Jun's deflected cross. The defending Champions Iraq found it hard to get past a resolute Korean defense, and their best shot at goal came in the 62nd minute when a long-range shot from Abdulrazzaq sailed over the bar.
South Korea defeat Iraq 2-0 (KOR - Moon Jun-Ho 45', 48')
South Korea (7) and Australia (12) qualify for the knockout stages. Defending Champions Iraq (1) and Afghanistan (15) were relegated.
Japan (4) vs Oman (5)
North Korea (3) vs Tajikistan (13)
Indonesia (16) vs Australia (12)
South Korea (7) vs India (9)