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India hold Uzbekistan 1-1, qualify for AFC U-16 meet 

new delhi, september 22

The India U-16 national football team played a 1-1 draw against hosts Uzbekistan to finish on top of Group B and qualify for the AFC U-16 Championship, to be held in Bahrain next year. 

The Indian colts, coached by Bibiano Fernandes, finished on seven points from three matches — the same as Uzbekistan but qualified as group winners by virtue of better goal difference (+10) in comparison to Uzbekistan’s goal difference of +3. 

India had earlier beaten Turkmenistan and Bahrain by identical (5-0) margins. India gained the lead in the 68th minute when Sridarth tapped the ball home off a rebound but the hosts equalised in the 81st minute. 

This is India’s third consecutive entry to the AFC U-16 Championships, and 9th overall. Only last year, India suffered a heartbreaking loss to North Korea in the quarterfinals of the AFC U-16 Championships, where they were a match away from a direct qualification to the next FIFA U-17 World Cup. “I am extremely proud of my boys,” head coach Fernandes said moments after India’s qualification.  The coach, however, said that the real challenge for his side starts now. Kathmandu: A confident India will be looking to open their campaign in the SAFF U-18 Championship on a winning note when they take on Bangladesh in their opening match here tomorrow. Bangladesh are comfortably placed after a 3-0 victory over Sri Lanka in the opening encounter of the group. India U-19 head coach Floyd Pinto is quite aware of the threat the Bangladesh team possesses. “We watched them in their first match against Sri Lanka. Their physical presence and strength is remarkable. They are also really good on set pieces,” Pinto said. 

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