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India's U-16 football team to embark on 3-nation tour


ANI New Delhi
All India Football Federation's (AIFF) India U-16 teams are set to play international matches while on a month-long three-nation tour.
In July, the team will be travelling to China, Thailand and Malaysia and will play 10-12 international matches which include seven matches against U16 national sides.
The July leg is marked as AIFF's final preparation of the Indian boy's team ahead of the AFC (Asian Federation Cup) U 16 Championship which is scheduled on September 2018 in Malaysia.
The Indian colts, coached by Bibiano Fernandes have been training in Kolkata for the five weeks as of now.
The 25-member squad and seven support staff will now leave for Weinan city, China on June 30, 2018, to participate in the four-nation invitational tournament alongside the U16 national teams of DPR Korea, Thailand and host China.
India will open their campaign against host China on July 03 followed by matches against Thailand on July 05, and DPR Korea on July 07.
Bibiano's boys are scheduled to take on Thailand U16 team on July in addition to playing practice games against two local clubs when they visit the country before a week-long stopover in Kuala Lumpur for a friendly match against Malaysian U 16 team towards the end of the tour.
The Malaysia stopover has been planned to acclimatise the squad with the feel of the pitch and conditions before they return for the big-ticket championship in September.
After India's aspiring U 17 World Cup participation, AIFF is focused on grooming a team capable of qualifying for the FIFA events by right in future. The assembling of current India U16 team is one such vision envisaged by the Indian Federation 12 months back.
On the eve of leaving for China, coach Bibiano Fernandes said, "I am fortunate to have these group of boys, the majority of them being with me since U15 competitions. It has been an exciting journey for us over the last 14-16 months in preparing for AFC U16 final and I am happy to have got ample opportunities to test our mettle against quality opponents and different conditions to get the right balance in the squad.''
"We have reminded ourselves of our targets every time we have stepped on the field and the boys have worked towards it every single day," he added.
India has been drawn in Group C of the AFC U16 Championship alongside Iran, Vietnam and Indonesia. The AFC U16 Championship featuring 16 teams will be held from September 20th to October 7th in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A top-four finish would earn India the bragging rights to play FIFA U 17 World Cup in 2019 in Peru.
Kushal Das, General Secretary, AIFF expressed satisfaction on the shaping up of the U16 team and progress over last 12 months.
"AFC competitions are never easy, but I am personally satisfied to see the team has come together well. As we set in for the final leg of our preparation, the July tour assumes importance with opportunities to play 7 ties against China, Thailand, Malaysia & DPR Korea U16 national sides," Das said.

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First Published: Jun 29 2018 | 11:16 PM IST

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