The Indian U-17 football team, last day became a part of history in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi as the country played its first ever World Cup Football match.
The presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the felicitation ceremony before the match, the packed house stadium singing the national anthem with eleven teenagers donning the blue jersey was a perfect occasion that gave goosebumps to generations across the country. India, the host country of the FIFA under-17 World Cup 2017 found a place as a playing nation for the first time in this major soccer event.
India fielded a team that was high on adrenaline as the roaring audience and the glad Prime Minister greeted the first eleven of the Indian U-17 squad on the field. It was the USA that the Indian colts had to neutralise on the very first occasion. The task was daunting but the intent was courageous.
USA: 3 – India: 0 – a match review
The score of the last three matches that USA U-17 team played with three formidable teams in world football are as follows: USA-5: China-1, USA-4: Brazil-0, USA-7: Portugal-1.
No wonder, India had a tough game on the cards. However, the young boys put up a spirited display of the game. India lost to a better side; no-doubt – the score could have been different if luck favoured the hosts in a couple of occasions.
The veteran Portuguese striker and ex-BL Benfica B coach; Luis Norton de Matos started the match on a wait-and-watch strategy that allowed the American boys to dominate the first quarter of the match. It took India 21 minutes to win its first corner.
Just when the team was regrouping, a sloppy challenge inside the box helped USA skipper Darkin to win a spot kick. The match was 30 minutes old and India conceded the first goal as Darkin converted from a clinical right-footer sending Dheeraj the Indian goalkeeper on the wrong side.
By the end of the first half, India was playing quite a few passes amongst themselves in the middle-third of the field. The Indian midfield led by the Indian captain Amarjit Singh, Suresh Singh and Komal Thatal looked nimble as they tried changed their game and started playing more on the ground. The USA team with a considerably higher average height was winning most of the aerial balls in the first half. In the far end of the first half, India made the first premeditated attack from the left flank with Komal in the thick of things.
India U-17s live their dream of playing in a FIFA World Cup
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) October 7, 2017
The second half started on a drastic note as India conceded the second goal from another set piece. A deflection from an Indian defender helped USA’s Sergent score his first in the World Cup in the 50th minute of the match.
However, the Indians reacted valiantly and from another consolidated move down the middle, Komal got the best chance of the match when his lob over the advancing USA goalkeeper missed the target by a whisker. The match was 55 minutes old. A couple of attacks followed but the Indian colts lacked the finishing move in the penetrative zone.
In the last quarter of the match, USA was playing a possession football and waiting for a chance to counter attack as the Indian team tried all-out to reduce the gap. The Indian midfield got into very good positions but the final movements got lost amidst the heavily built USA defenders.
In the last 10 minutes, the Indian team moved up frequently creating chances but failed to convert. On the 83rd minute, a corner by Komal was cleared by the USA defence to find a free Anwar at the edge of the box. His shot hit the crosspiece and India lost his best opportunity to convert and worse, the rebound was trapped by the awaiting USA players to launch another counter-attack and increase the lead to 3 goals.
In the post-match conversation, the head coach of the Indian team, Matos said, “In competitions like these, experience matters. However, I think we conceded the penalty in a time which was unfortunate, the second goal was a deflection and the third one was a result of a rebound from the crossbar that we could have scored. This is football. If Komal or Anwar scored the difference was one goal, the match could have ended differently.”
India’s braces for next two
Although an upset in the first match, the Indian colts have nothing to lose in the next two outings against Colombia (October 9) and Ghana (October 12). A win against Colombia can still turn the tables around and the host nation can again hope for a second round qualifier.
The spirited approach of the Indian team was praised by ex-footballers and the media all over the country and good wishes amidst prayers coat the hearts of Indians who have now started to feel the football fever.
Here are some Twitter glimpses from the stadium:
— Praful Patel (@praful_patel) October 7, 2017
Indian Squad: Dheeraj Moirangthem (GK), Jitendra Singh, Anwar Ali, Sanjeev Stalin, Suresh Wangjam, Ninthoinganba Meetei, Amarjit Kiyam (Captain), Aniket Jadhav, Abhijit Sarkar, Komal Thatal, Rahul Kannoly