A valiant Indian U-16 National Team went down fighting 0-1 against the Korea Republic in the quarterfinals of the AFC U-16 Championship at the Petaling Jaya Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.
Key Highlights - India vs South Korea
Substitute Jeong Sang-Bin's strike in the 68th minute for Korea ensured that it was a déjà vu for India from its clash in 2002, when the Colts had lost 1-3 to the same opponent at the same stage. However, the Indian colts on this day fought hard and did not surrender until the final whistle, defending with their lives and committing to every tackle - conceding a goal after 337 minutes of play in the tournament.
The opponent dominated possession from the start but confident defending with organisation held them at bay for some time. Compact defending with numbers further frustrated the Koreans, who had scored twelve goals in the tournament before coming into this encounter and added to their plight.
The Indian side that made it to the quarterfinals for the first time in sixteen years had progressed out of the group stages as the runner-up from Group C, with five points in three matches but even after giving Korea a tough challenge and stretching it to the limit, could not emerge the victor.
Niraj Kumar was called into play in the 14th minute and made an excellent save to deny South Korea from close range. He then made two back-to-back saves in the 34th and 36th minute to keep India in play as his dives saw the Korean shots from distance thwarted. The Indian Colts defended deep in the first half and pressured the opponent to give away the ball in the defending third.
India threatened the opposition goal only twice in the entire ninety minutes and both the came from distance on either side of the break. Ravi Bahadur Rana and Givson Singh had a crack from outside the box which required Shin Song-Hoon to get behind with authority.
Two minutes later, Korea almost gave India a scare when a free-kick attempt rattled the Indian bar and went out of play. In the 64th minute, Niraj once more made a fantastic diving save to deny the Koreans from close range.
After 337 minutes without conceding a goal, the Indian defence finally gave way in the 68th minute when Jeong Sang-Bin tapped in from close range after Niraj had palmed a venomous shot away.
Spurred to find the equaliser, the Indian colts initiated attacks of their own by the Korean defence line held firm. Vikram Partap proved to be a threat down the flanks but for all his possession around the box, could not create a clear goal scoring opportunity.
India’s starting XI against Korea Republic: Niraj Kumar (GK); Thoiba Singh, Shabas Ahammed, Harpreet Singh, Gurkirat Singh; Ravi Rana (69’ – Bhuvnesh Shendre), Ricky Shabong (80’ C. Eric), Bekey Oram,Givson Singh (71’ – L.Sailo), Vikram Partap Singh (C), Ridge De’Mello.
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