The Indian football team have been clubbed alongside defending champions Japan, Vietnam and Uzbekistan in Group D of the upcoming AFC U-17 Asian Cup 2023 after the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced the draw on Thursday.

The AFC U-17 Asian Cup will take place in Thailand from June 15th and will return after a gap of three years. The previous edition in Bahrain was previously cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A total of 16 teams were divided into four groups of four teams each with the hosts Thailand, being named in Group A for the competition. The two top teams from each group will advance further in the competition following the round-robin league stage.

India finished as quarter-finalists during the previous edition (2018) in Malaysia. The Indian youngsters will face their toughest challenge against reinging champions Japan, who won the 2018 edition. 

India secured qualification to the AFC U-17 Asian Cup 2023 by virtue of being one of the six best second-placed teams across the 10 groups of the qualifying tournament. Bibiano Fernandes' side notched a hat-trick of wins in the qualifying stage with a 5-0 victory against Maldives, followed by a 3-0 victory against Kuwait and 4-1 win against Myanmar respectively. They went down 1-2 against Saudi Arabia in their final qualification match.

India head coach Bibiano Fernandes said: “We are all excited with the group that we got at the draw. We will be facing some quality opponents, and the boys are really looking forward to it. Every footballer at every level wants to play against the best, and Japan are certainly one of the best in Asia.”

“Our previous batches have of course played against the teams like Uzbekistan and Vietnam, and we have had some good results against them, so we are very hopeful to reach our goal, which is to be the first Indian team to qualify for the (FIFA U-17) World Cup,” he concluded.

Complete Groups for the AFC U-17 Asian Cup 2023

Group A: Thailand, Yemen, Malaysia, Laos

Group B: Korea Republic, Iran, Afghanistan, Qatar

Group C: Tajikistan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, China

Group D: Japan, India, Vietnam, Uzbekistan