After Argentina high, India U-20 team set for tournament in Croatia

After two historic triumphs registered by the India U20 and U16 teams, the AIFF has announced that the U-20 team will play a four-nation tournament in Croatia next.

"We were always positive and had belief in these boys. Our youth development is doing pretty well and these results are due to that," AIFF general secretary Kushal Das said.   -  AIFF

The AIFF is set to send India’s U-20 team to Croatia for a four-nation tournament, general secretary Kushal Das said on Monday, hours after the side shocked superpower Argentina.

India notched up one of its most memorable football triumphs when its under-20 team stunned traditional giants Argentina 2-1 despite being reduced to 10 men in a pulsating contest at the COTIF Cup in Valencia.

The under-16 side shocked reigning Asian champions Iraq for the first time, courtesy a last-gasp goal, to bring its campaign back on track at the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) Tournament in Amman.

Read: Indian youth teams slay giants Argentina, Iraq

Feeling vindicated, Das said the federation always stayed positive despite recent setbacks and negativity around Indian football.

“We were always positive and had belief in these boys. Our youth development is doing pretty well and these results are due to that,” Das told PTI, hours after the Indian boys upstaged their fancied opponents.

“We are next trying to send the U-20 team to Croatia for a four-nation tournament.”

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) recently did not clear the men’s and women’s football teams for the upcoming Asian Games, and Das was one of the top officials from the All India Football Federation to have expressed dismay.

“I can only says that it’s very unfortunate and sad. Football is such a global game and you can’t use the same criteria for football and handball. I think they (IOA officials) just failed to understand that,” Das said.

The IOA decided not to send the football teams to the Asiad as they could not meet the qualifying criteria set by the national Olympic body.

Also Read: Indian women lose 1-5 to Morocco at COTIF

The move attracted condemnation from the sporting fraternity, but the IOA did not budge from its stand.

The two victories also come in the wake of some unsavoury comments by senior team coach Stephen Constantine against the U-17 team’s performance in the World Cup last year, but the top AIFF official said it was “just a personal opinion“.

Encouraged by results like these, Das said the AIFF is hopeful of a better future.

“We remain optimistic and will try to do whatever it takes to improve.”

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