Indian youngsters handed tough draw in the AFC 2018 U16 and U19 Asian Championships
Can the Blue Colts shine?
What’s the story?
Indian youngsters were handed tough draws in the qualifiers for the Under 16 and Under 19 editions of the AFC Asian Championship, both of which will be held in 2018. In the U16 edition, a tournament which India hosted last year, the Blue Colts have been placed in Group D alongside Iraq, Palestine and Nepal.
Meanwhile, in the U19 edition, the task is even tougher with Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Turkmenistan placed in Group D of the qualifiers.
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India who were the hosts of the U16 AFC Championship in 2016 failed to qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament. However, they gave a good account of themselves, taking the game to the likes of powerhouses like the UAE and Saudi Arabia before going down tamely against Iran.
India, however, failed to qualify for the U19 version last year, a tournament they had won in 1974 and last qualified in 2006 when they were the hosts.
The heart of the matter
Whilst the route to the U19 Championship will be the one to be taken by India’s current U17 side preparing for the World Cup, it’s going to be one uphill task. And with the qualifiers starting from November next year, just a month after the FIFA U17 World Cup, we should expect to see the majority of our World Cup squad feature in the qualifiers.
In the U16 qualifiers, India will be up against current champions Iraq and thus, to win the group will be a difficult task. With five of the best second-place teams set to progress, India should have hopes of qualifying for the main event. However, games against Palestine and Nepal (who will be the hosts for the group) will be no walks in the park.
The fixtures for the qualifiers are as follows:
It’s been more than 10 years since India qualified for the AFC U19 Championship and that drought could very well be extended with the tough competition in India’s group. The five best second place finishers do go through.
However, even that will be a tough challenge for the young colts with Yemen firmly in the mix – a team that has qualified for the main stages of the tournament four of the last five times.
They, however, will have a better chance at qualifying for the U16 Championship. Iraq will be favourites from the group, being the defending champions. However, Palestine will be entering the qualification phase of the tournament for the first time in their history. Nepal will be a tricky opponent on their home turf, but are a team that India will be expected to trounce.