The Indian U-16 national football team landed in Kathmandu on 18 September morning for the forthcoming AFC U-16 Qualifiers. India have been drawn with hosts Nepal, Iraq and Palestine in Group D.
Head coach Bibiano Fernandes said that despite the "tough draw," the boys can make the cut if "we play to our potential." India take on Palestine in their first match at the Halchowk Stadium on September 20.
Meanwhile, Bibiano hailed All India Football Federation's (AIFF) youth development program, saying it's the "backbone of the national team."
"The AIFF-run Academy has been the backbone of the national team. If you notice the current crop, more than 60% of the team are from the AIFF Academy which clearly underlines how successful the Academy project has turned out to be," said Bibiano.
"I have said it time and again that we are working with such a talented group here. All thanks to AIFF, these boys are being nurtured together for more than 17 months, which is a great time to grow as a team as the bonding, proper diet, practice matters in the long run," he certified.
He added, "They have already shown their potential and proved their worth in Egypt and Qatar. Winning against those sides is a daunting task indeed. I trust my boys to continue the good work and if they are able to, I see most of them playing for the Senior Team in a few years' time."
The Indian U-16 contingent is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Lalbiakhlua Jongte, Niraj Kumar, Manik Baliyan.
Defenders: Sandip Mandi, Shabas Ahammed, Gurkirat Singh, Harpreet Singh, Samir Kerketta, Moirangthem Thoiba Singh, Lalrokima.
Midfielders: Lalchhanhima Sailo, Eric Remruatpuia Chhangte, Givson Singh Moirangthem, Aenam Graffenberg Jyrwa, Ricky John Shabong, Ravi Bahadur Rana
Forwards: Bekey Oram, Vikram Pratap Singh, Harpreet, Ridge Melvin Demello, Shanon Alexinho Viegas, Adarsh Rai Das, Subungsa Basumatary.