India v USA: Panning out as expected

Luis Norton de Matos’ boys showed enough heart, but finally the skills — acquired by teams like USA with years of practice — were missing from their FIFA World Cup Under-17 game and unfortunately their tryst with destiny had no happy ending here.

Indian goalkeeper Dheeraj Moirangthem effects a save during their Under-17 FIFA World Cup match against USA in New Delhi.   -  PTI

With a cheering crowd and a beaming Prime Minister backing them from the stands, India started off sprightly in its opening match of the Under-17 World Cup against the USA. The evident difference in class, though, soon showed off and the USA slowly took control of the game, sending the hapless Indian boys on an energy-sapping run around the park.

Matching the physicality of their American counterparts, early on, the Indian boys were quick on their tackles, never shying away from using their body in trying to outmuscle their technically superior opponents. As early as in the 10th minute, Jitendra Singh clattered the USA captain, Josh Sargent, 15-yards outside the penalty area to thwart an advance by the opposition.

Match Centre

The Indians, however, failed to stitch a combination of passes while going forward and were often guilty of conceding possession, with players failing to find their team-mates even when under little pressure from the pressing United States midfield line. Clearly lacking in skills, the boys courageously battled on, often last ditch defending saving the day as the team packed its penalty area with seven or eight players at times.

Dheeraj Moirangthem looked assured in goal and commanded the box to keep India in the game.

However, a silly penalty conceded in the 29th minute by Jitendra, when he used his arm to hold back Sargent inside the box, gave USA the chance to surge ahead. Sargent, wise in football’s worldly ways after his exploits in the FIFA U-20 World Cup, placed the ball on the left bottom corner of the net, foxing Dheeraj to go the wrong way.

The USA captain, leading his team’s forwardline, with support from Tim Weah and Ayo Akinola, who often interchanged positions on the flanks, kept terrorising the Indian centre backs, who looked clearly overawed by the occasion.

Read: Norton proud of boys' commitment, but not happy with result

Sargent, soon, almost doubled the U.S. lead, but Dheeraj was quick to come out of his goal to avert the danger in the 32nd minute. India’s first shot on target came in the 42nd minute when Aniket Jadhav, toiling tirelessly upfront, weaved his way past a series of tackles to unleash a powerful grounder from outside the box. His shot, however, lost its sting as it travelled the distance and Justin Garces made an easy collection.

Immediately after the restart, Dheeraj again came to India’s rescue as he stepped out and thwarted an effort from the advancing Andrew Carleton. The USA soon extended its lead through centre-back Chris Durkin, who drilled a half volley from a Blaine Ferri corner, which the Indian defence failed to clear, in the 50th minute. Durkin’s strike, while on target, perhaps could have been saved by Dheeraj, but for an unlucky deflection from Anwar Ali, which left the goalkeeper with little time to react.

Komal Thatal, working hard throughout the half, found himself in the most opportune of places when the goal-scorer Durkin failed to judge a long ball from the Indian midfield. But, with the goalkeeper rushing outside, Komal’s looping shot sailed over the bar.

The Indian fans had a moment to cheer, when Ali, in search of redemption after his role in Durkin’s strike, saw his thundering effort rattle the bar post from a Komal corner in the 84th minute. The Indian team still ruing the missed chance was caught off guard when George Acosta found Carleton in acres of space in the opposition half and the midfielder coolly rounded off Dheeraj to slot home and complete the rout.

Luis Norton de Matos’ boys showed enough heart, but finally the skills — acquired by teams like USA with years of practice — were missing from their game and unfortunately their tryst with destiny had no happy ending here.

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