New Delhi:Less than two weeks after the India U-16 football team finished runners-up to Japan in the five-nation WAFF U-16 Championship, the squad will be participating in the tri-nation Istanbul Cup in Turkey as part of their exposure for next month’s AFC U-16 Championship Malaysia 2018.
The Indian boys will be playing Turkey and Oman in the tournament, and play another friendly match with U-16 Besiktas before returning to India.
The boys, who recently drew a lot of praise from India senior team skipper Sunil Chhetri for their recent success and will start their Istanbul Cup campaign August 20 against Oman U-16. They face Turkey U-16 two days later before squaring it off against Besiktas U-16 August 65.
Head coach Bibiano Fernandes felt playing against Turkey and Oman will further enhance the confidence of the boys prior to the ‘acid test’. “We look forward to playing against Turkey who have played the FIFA U-17 World Cup a few times including the last edition in India in 2017. Furthermore, as Oman are part of the AFC U-16 in Malaysia, nothing could be more appropriate build-up for us,” Fernandes stated.
Turkey’s youth development system has always been touted as among the best in Europe with the country having won the European U-17 Champions in 2005, and had finished semifinalists in 2008, 2010 and 2017. Oman on the other hand have won the AFC U-16 Championship twice in 1996 and 2000 and had reached the quarterfinals the last time the Championship was played in Goa in 2016.
At the AFC U-16 Championship, India have been clubbed with strong contenders Iran, Vietnam and Indonesia in Group C and begin their campaign September 21 against Vietnam. The four semifinalists from the competition earn a direct berth to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru, 2019.