A 22-member India Under-23 football squad left the country on Sunday to defend their title in the AFC Challenge Cup to be held in Colombo from February 16-27.
The squad, under coach Sukhwinder Singh, left Mumbai to board a Colombo-bound flight from Chennai.
India, who won the 2008 edition in Hyderabad to qualify for 2011 Asian Cup, open their campaign against Kyrgyzstan on February 17. They play Turkmenistan and DPR Korea on February 19 and 21 respectively in their Group B league matches.
The players had a training camp in Pune from February 5-12.
Sukhwinder said his young boys were looking forward to the tournament though he had to leave out at least three key players, including midfielders Baldeep Singh and Manish Maithani, due to injuries.
"We are in a tough group which has North Korea, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. But I believe I have a squad which can do very well in the tournament," he said.
"For us, since we have qualified for the AFC Asian Cup the stakes are not very high though we are not taking this tournament lightly. Asian Games is an important target for us and this tournament will help us in preparing for China. A good show in the tournament will give us the momentum after the SAFF Cup win in December last," he added.