The India U-16 national team is all set to take part in the much awaited 2018 AFC (Asian Football Confederation) U-16 Championship finals to be held in Malaysia between September 20 and October 7.
Preparations for the tournament had begun way back in January 2017 when Bibiano Fernandes led his boys to the 2017 SAFF (South Asian Football Federation) U-15 Championship title in Nepal which was his first official competition after taking charge of the India U-16 boys.
The boys won the SAFF U-15 Cup with a 100% win record. Thereafter, in the qualifying tournament, they qualified for the AFC U-16 Championship as the second best team in their group that had the likes of Palestine, Nepal and Iraq.
The India U-16s played competitions such as the India-Egypt Friendship Cup in Egypt, Jockey Cup in Hong Kong, MIC and Sportchain Cups in Spain besides four-nation tournaments in Serbia, China and Jordan where they finished runners-up to Japan in the 2018 WAFF (Western Asian Football Federation) U-16 Championship in the last eight months.
Besides playing a host of practice matches in India as well as abroad in countries such as UAE (United Arab Emirates), Thailand and Malaysia, other than the above-named destinations, the India Colts' last exposure trip was to Turkey where they played the likes of Oman, Cameroon and also played a friendly match against Besiktas.
Arriving in Malaysia 10 days before the competition starts will allow the team to acclimatise to the conditions.
India are grouped alongside Vietnam, Iran and Indonesia in the finals of the AFC U-16 Championship with fixtures against the respective teams on September 21st, 24th and 27th. A top-four finish in the competition offers the incentive of a direct spot in the 2019 U-17 World Cup in Peru.