The AFC U16 Championship 2016 will kick off here in Goa capital today as the arch rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia face off in the Group A match. It will be followed up with a mouth watering and highly awaited clash between the hosts India and the UAE.
All the four teams have been practicing for about a week now and have held their cards close. The Saudis are hot favorites while Iran is no pushover either. Iran had a stupendous performance in the AFC U16 qualifiers held earlier. They had resounding victories over Bahrain, India and Lebanon, scoring 12 goals and conceding just one!
Saudi Arabia had a dominant performance over their rivals in the qualifiers beating Bangladesh 5-1 and UAE 6-2 on their way to the Championship Finals.
For India this will be the first appearance after 2012 and they had reached upto the quarterfinals in 2002. With teams like Saudi Arabia and Iran in their group, repeating that feat seems a bit difficult. There are four spots to be won in this tournament for the FIFA U17 World Cup 2017 to which India plays host. Even though they have a spot assured coach Nicolai aims to qualify on merit.
“We qualified for this tournament on merit and now we want to qualify for the World Cup on merit.” Nicolai Adam
The UAE had just one victory against Bangladesh in their qualifiers and are playing the tournament for the first time after 2010 when they had hosted it. They are touted as the weakest team in the group even though there are a lot of uncertainties in the age group teams.