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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Inexperience Makes Its Case for Spirited India

Deep in the second half Anwar Ali smashed it against the crossbar after he found himself unmarked behind the USA defence. An inch lower and it would have been 2-1 – safe to say that would have changed the nature of the final minutes at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, but the fact that India were left to play catch-up game against a superior opposition, would not have changed.

Abhimanyu Sen | News18 Sports

Updated:October 8, 2017, 7:54 AM IST
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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Inexperience Makes Its Case for Spirited India
India U-17 Football team ahead of the match against USA (Image: AIFF)
New Delhi: Deep in the second half Anwar Ali smashed it against the crossbar after he found himself unmarked behind the USA defence. An inch lower and it would have been 2-1 – safe to say that would have changed the nature of the final minutes at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, but the fact that India were left to play catch-up game against a superior opposition, would not have changed.

In the blink of an eye, the Americans turned defence into attack and, Indians were caught napping. The transition was too much to handle for India, and Andrew Carleton finally hit the back of the net and put the seal on the inevitable, a 3-0 win without USA hitting top gear.

“We can play much better. You have to break down an opposition and our execution wasn’t great in the final play,” said Josh Hackworth after the match.
It was never going to be an easy task for the Blue Colts, and they were vary of the master class that was on display. For most who were eagerly waiting to see this Indian team, there was spirit and the fight, to go with nerves – but they were outclassed in their first global test.

The game wasn’t without positives for the hosts, and as Coach Luis Norton de Matos has emphasised time and again, it is the performance that is more important at this stage than the result. Goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh stood tall, alongside the flamboyance of Komal Thatal.

Dheeraj Singh, Anwar Ali and Jitendra Singh were required to stay strong in the heart of the defence as anything close to a meltdown in that part of the field would have a rout.

“India’s goalkeeper (Dheeraj Singh) was fantastic on the night. Without him making those saves, the game would have opened up,” said Hackworth, who believes and reiterated the fact that India are a very hardworking unit.

If not for Dheeraj who made a total of four saves in the 90 minutes, the complexion of the game would have been very different. Along with him, Anwar and Jitendra were pivotal in ensuring that more often than not any crosses played into the penalty box was dealt with, even if there were instances of a last ditch effort.

USA had the lion’s share of the possession all through the match, but when India did manage to win it back, they were wasteful, especially while playing up the wings from defence. The coach was notably unhappy on the touchline, and said his players were, ‘shy’. Nerves clearly got the better off them in front of close to 50,000 people.

The Portugese coach pointed out that there was indeed a lack of co-ordination which resulted in losing possession of the ball, something he is generally keener on holding onto.

“We need to get our transition working correctly. It is very important because and we suffered because we could not get our passes in the attack right.”

“There is a big gap between us and the other teams, but we proved that we can be organised. We conceded a stupid goal in the first half because of penalty, but until half-time, it was possible to keep the score respectable,” said Norton.

In attack, Komal Thatal was India’s biggest source of encouragement. The Number 11 with blonde was hard to miss, and he was by far the most composed in attack.

Like his hairstyle, his football is all about flamboyance. Every time Komal got the ball in space, his pace and willingness to run at defenders was encouraging. On the night when his friends in defence were having a hard time, he almost embarrassed the opposition – but his lob over the keeper was over hit.

Komal alongside Aniket Jadhav would mostly cut a lonely figure upfront as they were left to feed off scraps. India managed just one shot on goal, and that was a rasping one by Anwar Ali that came back off the crossbar.

“There were a lot of passes which usually would have been completed, the boys have never faced this sort of an atmosphere with an opponent of the quality of USA. This is not a friendly tournament. I am not happy with the result. But the players have shown they can do better with experience,” noted the Indian coach.

A nervous and edgy India failed to get the basics right, it does not reflect well on the way they have prepared. When they play Colombia next the pressures of making a debut won’t be there; Amarjit and his team must get their basics right if they are to indeed show progress.
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