The draw for the AFC U-16 Championship 2016 was made on Thursday, and India have been grouped in what may be referred to as the toughest group possible in the tournament. India U-16, to be led by head coach Nicolai Adam, are grouped alongside powerhouses Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The tournament is scheduled to start in September this year and the matches will take place at the JLN Stadium in Fatorda, Goa and the Bambolim Stadium in Goa.
With the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 almost around the corner, India would have liked an easy draw in the pre-World Cup tournament. However, the India U-16 side drawing alongside the big football nations is being seen as an opportunity by Adam, rather than a difficult challenge.
"I like the draw, when you look at the groups, it's pretty even. We see this as a stepping stone to the World Cup; so the more difficult the opposition the better," Adam was quoted as saying in an AFC press release. "We still have a long way to go though. All I want is good competition to prepare the World Cup, the motive is still to reach the semi-finals of the AFC championships."
There are a total of four groups in the competition and the top two teams from each group will qualify for the quarterfinals of the AFC U-16 Championship 2016.
Meanwhile, AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das also hopes that Goa will be successful in hosting the football tournament, which will span for about a month. Goa is also selected as one of the venues to host the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017.
"For us it is a great honour to be hosting this tournament, it's a preparation for the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 next year and I am certain Goa will leave no stone unturned to make this event a successful one," said Das.
The last four teams from the tournament will earn a berth to the FIFA U-17 World Cup next year. If India finish as one of the four teams, the fifth team will qualify for the event. India, as hosts, have already qualified for the event.
AFC U-16 Championship 2016: Groups
Group A - India (hosts), UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iran.
Group B - Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam, Japan, Australia.
Group C - Iraq, Oman, Malaysia, Korea Republic.
Group D - Yemen, Thailand, Uzbekistan, DPR Korea.