New Delhi, June 29 (IANS) The India Under-16 colts will set out for a month long three-nation football excursion this July to China, Thailand and Malaysia.
The Indian team will play 10-12 international ties, including 7 against U16 national sides, a statement from the All India Football Federation (AIFF) said on Friday.
The July leg is marked as AIFF’s final preparation of the Indian boys ahead of the AFC U-16 Championship scheduled in September 2018 in Malaysia.
The Indian colts, coached by Bibiano Fernandes, have been training in Kolkata for the last 5 weeks since returning victorious from Serbia in May.
The 25-member squad and 7 support staff will now leave for Weinan city, China on June 30 to participate in the four- nation invitational tournament alongside the U16 national teams of DPR Korea, Thailand and host China.
India open their campaign against host China on July 3 followed by matches against Thailand on July 5 and DPR Korea on July 7.
Bibiano’s boys are scheduled to take on the Thailand U16 team one more time in mid-July in addition to playing practice games against two local clubs when they visit the country before a week long stopover in Kuala Lampur for a friendly against the Malaysian U 16 team towards the end of the tour.
The Malaysia stopover has been planned to acclimatise the squad and get the feel of the pitch and conditions before they return for the big-ticket championship in September.
Bibiano said: “I am fortunate to have these group of boys, majority of them being with me since U15 competitions.
“It has been an exciting journey for us over the last 14-16 months in preparing for AFC U16 final and I am happy to have got ample opportunities to test our mettle against quality opponents and different conditions to get the right balance in the squad.”
“We have reminded ourselves of our targets every time we have stepped on the field and the boys have worked towards it every single day.”
India has been drawn in Group C of the AFC U16 Championship alongside Iran, Vietnam and Indonesia.
The AFC U16 Championship featuring 16 teams will be held from September 20 to October 7 in Kuala Lumpur.
A top four finish would earn India the bragging rights to play the FIFA U 17 World Cup in 2019 in Peru.