India draws with Indonesia, makes QF for first time in 16 years

India finished the group stage with five points and reached the quarterfinal for the first time since 2002.

India captain Vikram Singh in action against Indonesia on Thursday.   -  Twitter @IndianFootball

The Indian men's U-16 football team made history on Thursday by reaching the quarterfinal stage of the 2018 AFC U-16 Championships. The Indians played out a 0-0 draw against Indonesia to seal their berth in the last-eight stage.

With the top four teams in this tournament qualifying directly for the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup — to be held in Peru, India is a step away from sealing its spot.

With this draw, India finished runners-up in Group C with five points from three matches, it's best performance at the tournament.  It's previous best was four points back in 2002, which was also the last time the team reached the quarterfinal.  The boys are likely to face Korea Republic in the next round.

“We have worked really hard to get where we are and we are very happy with our performance in the group stages. The boys gave their cent percent on the field and we played according to our plan,” said coach Bibiano Fernandes after the match.

“This is a special moment for each and every one back home. The credit goes to all my staff, the grassroots coaches who tutored these kids at a young age, and my players for putting in the hard work day in and day out,” he added.

The India U-16 national team has to defeat tournament favourite South Korea to secure an automatic berth at the 2019 U-17 World Cup in Peru. (File Photo)   -  AIFF MEDIA

 

Indonesia had the better chances in the first half but failed to find the finishing touch up front. However, it was the Indians who has the chance to take an early lead. A counter-attack in the sixth minute from the flanks saw Vikram Pratap’s header go inches over the goal after he was found on the flanks by Ridge De’Mello.

India had a fine chance in the 20th minute but Ricky Shabong’s shot from inside the box was deflected for a corner.

Despite Indonesia hogging possession, Indian goalkeeper Niraj Kumar was forced into action for the first time only in the 27th minute, when he dived to save a shot from distance. Both teams went into the tunnel at level pegging as the scoreline read 0-0.

Changing over, the Indians restricted Indonesia to midfield and held the opposition at bay from the attacking third. India had the chance to take the lead again in the 72nd minute, but Ricky failed to find the net from close range, despite an open goal on offer.

India will play its quarterfinal tie on Monday.