Tashkent: The India U-16 National Team played a 1-1 draw against hosts Uzbekistan here at the
Transport Institute Stadium on Sunday to finish on top of Group B and qualify for the AFC U-16
Championship Bahrain 2020 to be held next year.
The Indian colts, led by Bibiano Fernandes, finished on 7 points from 3 matches - levelled with hosts
Uzbekistan but qualified as group winners by virtue of better goal difference (+10) in comparison to
Uzbekistan’s goal difference of +3. India had earlier beaten Turkmenistan U-16, and Bahrain U-16 both
by 5-0 margins.
India had earnedd the lead in the 68th minute when Sridarth tapped the ball home off a rebound, but
even with the hosts levelling at the 81st minute, the Indians did not give in despite a hostile crowd
backing the Uzbeks.
This is India’s third straight entry to the AFC U-16 Championships, and 9th overall and India’s 4th entry
to the AFC U-16 Championships since 2011, the previous ones being in 2011, 2015, and in 2017.
Last year, the India U-16 boys suffered a heart-breaking loss to Korea Republic in the quarterfinals of the
AFC U-16 Championships, where they were a match away from a direct qualification to the next FIFA U-
17 World Cup.
Head Coach Bibiano Fernandes hailed the effort of his boys. “I am extremely proud of my boys,” he
stated moments after India’s qualification. “There has been a lot of hard work put in, and every support
staff, and player deserves equal credit,” he added. “The efforts put in by AIFF at the youth level by
providing us continuous exposure tours with help from SAI has helped the boys mature.”
“But the real challenge begins now. Last year, we suffered a heartbreak in the quarterfinals against
Korea Republic. Our preparation for the AFC U-16 Finals has already begun with the final whistle,” he
Meanwhile, AIFF President Mr. Praful Patel said that the boys made him “proud.”
“I am extremely proud of the boys. Well done. Congratulations!” he said in his statement. “The AIFF has
always aimed at building a robust youth development structure. This is our third consecutive entry to
the AFC U-16 Championships, and I believe, there will be many more to come,” he added.
Praising the effort of the boys, AIFF General Secretary Mr. Kushal Das described this as a “huge victory
for Indian Football.”
“Qualifying ahead of Uzbekistan, that too in Uzbekistan, speaks volumes of the efforts being put in at
AIFF’s youth development structure. The boys are now on a 14-match unbeaten streak, and that’s
something quite unprecedented in youth