FIFA U-17 WC: Experts: 'India played well'

Despite a 0-3 loss to United States, former players praise the Indian colts for a good show in their World Cup debut.

India's Aniket Jadhav (left) and USA's Chris Gloster vie for ball during their FIFA U-17 World Cup match at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Friday.   -  AFP

The Indian colts came in for praise for their debut in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Friday. Despite the 3-0 loss to United States, their fan club grew impressively.

The hard work by stoppers Anwar Ali and Jitendra Singh and goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh earned appreciation from some former India stars, who followed the match with excitement.

“Dheeraj will be the player to watch,’ said former great Bhaskar Ganguly. “His confidence is amazing. He needs to keep his head and train hard. Sky is the limit for this lad. I see a star in him in the future. He has to maintain the same level of training and try and improve his gripping of the ball. That’s the only area of concern for me,” added Ganguly, a legend under the bar.

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Chuni Goswami, one of the finest strikers, expressed “satisfaction” at India’s performance. “I won’t say I’m happy but I am satisfied. This is an inexperienced lot and needs to be backed on all fronts. They are the best available in the land and will improve by the experience gained against US. It’s an important phase for Indian football.”

The team, added Goswami, did “well” after initial hiccups. “The team has shown lot of promise. The only problem was their over-defensive approach. The stoppers excelled right through. They both look quality players.”

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In the opinion of I. M. Vijayan, a crafty player upfront, there were plenty of positives from the match. “The young players defied everyone. They made a huge impression with their one-touch passing. Briefly I thought they were intimidated by the physique of the American players but they recovered to show decent cohesion, even if in patches. The three-goal loss shouldn’t dishearten them. To me, they played good football because they played with confidence all through the match,” said Vijayan, one of the greatest Indian footballers in modern times.

Former India goalkeeper Debasish Mukherjee singled out Dheeraj as the most outstanding Indian player of the day. “Dheeraj was very impressive. I liked his attitude in one-on-one situations. He is brave and displays superb anticipation. He doesn’t mind leaving the post and that to me is a rare quality. We must pursue with Dheeraj because he is going to serve Indian football long,” noted Mukherjee.

The World Cup in numbers

US coach John Hackworth echoed Mukherjee’s remarks. “The goalkeeper (Dheeraj) made several saves in the opening 20 minutes. He was exceptional on the night. If he wouldn’t have made those saves, the game would have opened up. One save was off Josh Sargent and he doesn’t miss many.”