Panaji: India will look to start with a win when they take on United Arab Emirates (UAE) in their opening match of their AFC Under-16 Championship match at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Fatorda in Margao on Thursday.
Iran and Saudi Arabia will play the group's inaugural match.
All set to make their seventh appearance at the AFC U-16 Championship, hosts India will be expecting home conditions to help them better their previous best achievement in the tournament, in 2002, when they reached the quarter-finals.
India finished last in the AIFF Youth Cup, but had a successful three months training in Germany and Norway, winning 12 out of 19 matches they played. The training has helped the players raise their game by several notches.
"We have qualified in this tournament on merit and are now looking forward to qualify for the World Cup U-17 next year in India on merit by reaching the semi-finals of this tournament," said India's chief coach Nicolai Adam. "We are placed in a tough group along side UAE, Iran and Saudi Arabia and it is always good to play against strong opponents and see where we lie as we prepare ourselves for the U-17 World Cup," he added.
The coach said that the team would be missing some of its key players during the tournament. "We are missing five players who will play next year's U-17 World Cup, due to injuries and date of birth problem. It is going to be a little set-back, but we will take this in our stride and play to our potential to reach the semi-finals, which is our goal," said Adam.
UAE, who are ranked higher than India, were the first team to arrive and get acclimatised to the playing conditions and the weather. Like India, they will also be making their seventh appearance in this tournament.
UAE coach Hadelmajeed Ibrahim Mohamed Alnemer said they went to Malaysia in June to prepare for this tournament and played four friendly matches before coming to Goa. "It going to be a tough tournament as all the teams are equally good and we need to give our best to reach the semi-finals in order to qualify for the U-17 World Cup.
"We have never played against India and we do not know their style of playing. Hopefully, we play to our potential and win our first match, which will help us to achieve our goal of qualifying for the U-17 World Cup," said Alnemer.