As you must be knowing that the Indian U17 national team has qualified for the 2023 AFC U17 Asian Cup which has already begun on 15th June in Thailand. The Blue Colts had qualified for the finals by finishing among the best 2nd-placed teams from the Group Stages back in October 2022. Let’s discuss the journey of the team since then and discuss India’s chance in the 2023 AFC U17 Asian Cup in Thailand.
Since the qualifiers had finished the AIFF U-17 Elite League took place to search for more players and increase the competitiveness of the team. It started in December and ended in January. The players who impressed were called up to the U17 national team setup in Goa.
Group D – The Group of Death?
India has been placed in a difficult group that includes the likes of Vietnam, Uzbekistan, and Japan. This will be India’s 9th appearance in the tournament which was previously known as the AFC U-16 Championship. The best result for the Blue Colts has been the Quarter-final finishes in (2002, 2018) two occasions. Meanwhile, in the other remaining six editions, India was knocked out in the group stages itself.
Vietnam will make its 8th appearance and its best result was fourth place finish in 2000. Uzbekistan will be making its 10th appearance and its best performance was to become the champions in 2012. Japan are the strongest team in the group and also in the continent. The Blue Samurais will be making their 16th appearance and they have emerged as champions in (1994, 2006, and 2018) three occasions before.
Here are India’s Fixtures in the U17 Asian Cup
|Match Date||Versus Team||Kick Off Time||Stadium|
|17th June||Vietnam||5:30 PM (IST)||Thammasat Stadium|
|20th June||Uzbekistan||5:30 PM (IST)||Thammasat Stadium|
|23rd June||Japan||5:30 PM (IST)||Thammasat Stadium|
Telecast Information – All the AFC U17 Asian Cup matches will have Live streaming on the JIO TV application for free!
The Preparation has been top-notch!
Since the AFC U-17 AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers took place back in October last year India has played a total of 21 friendly matches for the preparation of the finals in Thailand. Out of which they have won 11 games, drawn 3 games, and lost 7 matches. That gives us a winning percentage rate of 52.38%.
|Match Date||Team Versus||Match Score||Result|
|5th September 2022||Bhutan (SAFF)||0 – 3||Win|
|9th September 2022||Nepal (SAFF)||1 – 3||Loss|
|12th September 2022||Bangladesh (SAFF)||1 – 2||Win|
|14th September 2022||Nepal (SAFF)||4 – 0||Win|
|27th September 2022||Oman (Friendly)||1 – 3||Win|
|3rd October 2022||Maldives (AFC)||0 – 5||Win|
|5rd October 2022||Kuwait (AFC)||3 – 0||Win|
|7th October 2022||Myanmar (AFC)||1 – 4||Win|
|5th October 2022||Saudi Arabia (AFC)||1 – 2||Loss|
But, if we take into consideration the previous 9 matches last year (2022 SAFF U-17 Championship + Friendly vs Oman + AFC U17 Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers) we have played a total of 30 Games under coach Bibiano Fernandes until now. And, India has won 18 games, drawn 3 matches, and lost 9 matches. It gives us an overall win percentage rate of 60% – that’s like three-fifth of the games won.
1) Friendlies Against Indian Club
|Date of Match||Game Versus||Match Score||Result|
|12th December 2022||Bengaluru FC U18 side||1 – 1||Draw|
|15th December 2022||Bengaluru FC U18 side||2 – 4||Win|
|18th December 2022||Bengaluru FC U18 side||1 – 5||Win|
|28th January 2023||Reliance Football Young Champs U-19||1 – 1||Draw|
The team played three friendly games against the Bengaluru FC U18 side in Bellary, Karnataka between the 12th and 18th of December. While one of the matches ended in a draw, the other two games saw big-margin victories for team India with 4-2 and 5-1 scorelines respectively. At the end of January, the team also faced the Reliance Football Young Champs U19 team and played out a 1-1 draw.
Both Bengaluru FC and Reliance Football Young Champs gave a good test to India since they both are the country’s finest youth teams as they were among the four Indian sides to qualify for the 2023 Next Gen Cup that was held in Mumbai between 17th and 26th May.
2) Friendlies Against National Teams
|Date of Match||Game Versus||Match Score||Result|
|16th January 2023||UAE U-20||1 – 0||Loss|
|22nd January 2023||Uzbekistan U-17||2 – 0||Win|
|24th January 2023||Uzbekistan U-17||0 – 3||Loss|
|25th February 2023||Qatar U-17||3 – 1||Win|
|28th February 2023||Qatar U-17||0 – 3||Loss|
In January, India went to Dubai to face the UAE U20 team, and narrowly lost by a goal. After that, the side returned to Goa and hosted the Uzbekistan U17 team for two friendly matches. The first was an impressive 2-0 victory for team India, but in the second game, they lost to the Uzbekistan team by a 3-0 scoreline. In February the team traveled to Doha to face the Qatar U17 team in two friendly games. The first match was a 3-1 defeat, but in the second game, the boys bounced back and performed brilliantly to get a 3-0 win against the Qataris.
3) Friendlies Against Foreign Clubs
In March the team was training in India itself and it was announced the team will be going on abroad tours in Spain and Germany between April and May to prepare well, and also get the opportunity to rub shoulders with the youth sides of the top European clubs in that way. In Spain, all the matches were against Madrid-based La Liga side’s youth teams as the team had its base set up in the Atletico Madrid facility.
The exposure tour started with a 4-1 win over the Atletico Madrid U17 side. It was followed by a 2-0 defeat to the CD Leganés U18 side. After that, the team had a 2-1 victory over the Atletico Madrid U16 side. The month of May began with a wonderful 3-3 draw against the Real Madrid U17 team. After that, India saw two successive defeats to the Getafe U18 side (3-1) and the Atletico Madrid U18 side (4-0) in the last game.
|Date of Match||Game Versus||Match Score||Result|
|19th April 2023||Atletico Madrid U-17 (Spain)||1 – 4||Win|
|25th April 2023||CD Leganes U-18 (Spain)||2 – 0||Loss|
|27th April 2023||Atletico Madrid U-16 (Spain)||1 – 2||Win|
|3rd May 2023||Real Madrid U-17 (Spain)||3 – 3||Draw|
|10th May 2023||Getafe CF U-18 (Spain)||3 – 1||Loss|
|12th May 2023||Atletico Madrid U-18 (Spain)||4 – 0||Loss|
|17th May 2023||VFB Stuttgart U-19 (Germany)||3 – 1||Loss|
|20th May 2023||SSV Reutlingen U-16 (Germany)||1 – 6||Win|
|26th May 2023||FC Augsburg U-17 (Germany)||1 – 3||Win|
|29th May 2023||TSV Schwaben Augsburg U-18 (Germany)||0 – 4||Win|
|6th June 2023||Muangthong United U-17 (Thailand)||0 – 3||Win|
|9th June 2023||Nakhon Ratchasima U-17 (Thailand)||0 – 6||Win|
The team then shifted its base to Germany as they left Madrid for Stuttgart on the 16th of May. Just the day after landing in Germany the boys played a game against the VFB Stuttgart U19s side and saw a 3-1 defeat. After that the team managed to get three consecutive wins starting with a 6-1 win over the SSV Reutlingen U16 side, followed by a 3-1 win over the U-17 side of Augsburg FC, and finally a 4-0 win over the TSV Schwaben Augsburg U-17 side. The team then concluded its Germany tour with a final practice session on the 31st of May.
After that, the team traveled to Thailand on 1st June and trained there for two weeks and also took the option to play friendly matches with the U17 sides of two Thai League clubs. Both matches ended in a victory for the Indian team. While the first win was against the U17 side of Muangthong United FC (3-0) on 6th June, the second victory was against the U-17 side of the Nakhon Ratchasima FC on the 9th of June.
The 23-Member India Squad
|Jersey Number||Player Name||Position||Club|
|1.||Sahil Poonia||Goalkeeper||Zinc FA|
|21.||Julfikar Gazi||Goalkeeper||Bengal FA|
|22.||Pranav Sundarraman||Goalkeeper||Meghalaya FA|
|2.||Ricky Meetei Haobam||Defender||Eastern Sporting Union|
|14.||Surajkumar Singh Ngangbam||Defender||SAI Guwahati|
|3.||Mukul Panwar||Defender||Chandigarh FA|
|4.||Pramveer Singh||Defender||Punjab FA|
|12.||Malemngamba Singh Thokchom||Defender||SAI SAG|
|5.||Dhanajit Ashangbam||Defender||Manipur FA|
|6.||Gurnaj Singh Grewal||Midfielder||Chandigarh FA|
|7.||Korou Singh Thingujam||Midfielder||Sudeva Delhi|
|13.||Omang Dodum||Midfielder||RoundGlass FA|
|17.||Danny Meitei Laishram||Midfielder||Sudeva Delhi|
|18.||Rohen Singh Chaphamayum||Midfielder||East Bengal|
|15.||Faizan Waheed||Midfielder||J&K FA|
|23.||Akash Tirkey||Midfielder||Minerva Academy|
|9.||Thanglalsoun Gangte||Forward||Sudeva Delhi|
|19.||Lemmet Tangvah||Forward||Chandigarh FA|
|11.||Shashwat Panwar||Forward||Chandigarh FA|
|20.||Gogocha Chungkham||Forward||Classic FA|
Although there have been some notable absentees like Manjot Singh Dhami, Balkaran, Aman, and a couple of others, there have also been some new faces who have got a place in the team. It’s always risky to head into any tournament with only 6 defenders but coach Bibiano is a man with a plan and thus the mastermind is well aware of what he is doing. Maybe he felt there is a more need for depth in the midfield.
The Goalkeepers and Forwards have performed exceptionally well like the defenders and the midfielders. Over the course, India has scored 77 goals and conceded just 40 goals in those total 30 matches played to date from the SAFF U17 Championship in September last year.
Top Five Goalscorers in the Team
|Player Rank||Player Name||Number of Goals|
|1.||Thanglalsoun Gangte||17 Goals|
|2.||Shashwat Panwar||9 Goals|
|3.||Korou Singh Thingujam||8 Goals|
|4.||Vanlalpeka Guite||7 Goals|
The Conclusion – Is Qualification by Merit Possible?
The conclusion we can draw is that the team has been placed in a tricky group but there are high hopes for the Bibiano Fernandes-led team. As the head coach rightly said the aim is to qualify for the FIFA U17 World Cup by merit. The U17 Asian Cup semi-finalists will get a direct spot to represent Asia in the FIFA U17 world cup, thus head coach Bibiano has his eyes set on reaching the last four of the competition.
Having played with some of the best youngsters in top academies of La Liga and Bundesliga sides and also getting the privilege of being coached by experienced coaches of Atlético Madrid and VFB Stuttgart academies during their stay there, the team has learned a lot over the last two months and even more when you include the international friendlies before that against some of the Asia continent’s finest sides.
Thus we can say there is nothing to be afraid or worried about and also the top two sides go through thus if India can have a couple of good results there is no reason why they can’t make it beyond the group stages, quarterfinals, and the semis – the ultimate aim. During the 2018 edition, India was just one game away from securing their place in the U17 world cup but lost by a goal to South Korea in the quarter-finals.
The India U17 National Team will be looking to go one step further this time by going as far as possible into the competition and in turn qualifying by merit for the first time in our history. That feat will earn us a historic ticket to the upcoming 2023 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
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