FIFA U-17 WC: India trained hard, fought hard and impressed

India learnt from the three defeats against United States, Colombia and Ghana, all superior teams in all departments of the game. Yet, India made an impression.

Goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh earned many fans with his performance at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India.   -  PTI

 

Dheeraj Singh is a prospective candidate for a role under the bar in the senior team. Anwar Ali is likely to be flooded with offers to be part of an army of defence. These are the two heartening takeaways from India’s campaign in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in progress.

India learnt from the three defeats against United States, Colombia and Ghana, all superior teams in all departments of the game. Yet, India made an impression. The teenagers, having trained hard for the occasions, did not concede without a fight and earned plaudits from the rival coaches too.

The losses didn’t matter to the Indian fans who were appreciative of the team in the premier competition.   -  PTI

 

“I am proud of my players,” declared coach Luis Norton de Matos. “I’m very proud of the behaviour of the team. I’m sure you will remember my words – this is a fantastic generation. There are things the country must do at the grassroots and then only you will have results. I can only make an omelette from the eggs that I have. I am proud that the coaches of Chile, Ghana, USA and Mexico have praised our organization.”

What is the way forward? It will be a challenge for the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to retain this group, keep it together, and sustain the players’ education and football dreams. Intensity will be the key.

Much has been said about India scoring just one goal and conceding nine. The exposure to this fiercely competitive platform was priceless, far more precious than scoring a goal, which Jeakson Singh did in any case from a set-piece finish. As de Matos analysed, “India suffered goals, some stupid ones. But we need that to progress. If the games were against Maldives or Nepal or Bhutan, the story would have been different. This is the top level. We are the only team in the competition who have made it without qualification.”

The exercise was part of FIFA’s grandiose plans to shake India into realising its potential in this global game. India is considered a sleeping giant in football. It will need a monumental effort to trigger a football revolution in a country where sports is not a priority for majority of the population. But de Matos, in a brutal observation, also reminded that India was not a “football nation.”

He emphasized, “We must start the process now. We need to invest in these boys and give hope to the country. The idea is to play football at an earlier age. We need to know the reality.”

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