New Delhi [India], Sept 22 (ANI): India U-16 team on Sunday finished on top of Group B and qualified for the AFC U-16 Championship 2020 to be held in Bahrain after they played a 1-1 draw against Uzbekistan.
Although both sides had seven points, India qualified as the group winner by virtue of better goal difference (10) from three matches. The team had defeated both Turkmenistan U-16 and Bahrain U-16 by 5-0 each.
Sridarth scored the opening goal of the match in the 68th minute. However, hosts Uzbekistan scored an equalizer in the 81st minute. This is India's third consecutive entry to the AFC U-16 Championship and the ninth overall.
Team's head coach Bibiano Fernandes said he is "extremely proud" of his boys.
"I am extremely proud of my boys. There has been a lot of hard work put in, and every support staff, and player deserves equal credit. 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," All India Football Federation's (AIFF) website quoted Fernandes as saying.
"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 added.
AIFF President Praful Patel also congratulated the team.
"I am extremely proud of the boys. Well done. Congratulations! 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," Patel said.
AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said, "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 football." (ANI)