India's U-20 football team scripted a memorable 2-1 win over traditional powerhouse Argentina, triggering a wave of celebration among Indians. The win is made more special by the fact that the Indian team played with 10 men for more than 40 minutes after Aniket Jadhav earned a red card in the 58th minute. But, in the end, Deepak Tangri's fourth-minute goal off a header and Anwar Ali's stunning free-kick in the 68th minute were enough to earn India a historic win despite Argentina pulling one goal back.
MATCH MATHS: This was India's debut participation in the COTIF Cup, which took place in Valencia this year. Before the Argentina match, India played two matches -- a loss against Mauritania and a draw against U-20 Fifa World Cup runners-up Venezuela. Argentina had already qualified for the semi-finals after winning their first three games and thus rested a couple of key players.
SQUAD STRENGTH OF THE OPPONENTS (ARGENTINA):
Coach: Lionel Scaloni (a 2006 World Cup winner)
Rested startlets: In-form players Alvaro Barreal amd Adolfo Gaich
The playing XI: Inter Milan striker Facundo Colidio, having already scored twice in the tournament, started at no.9. The squad also included Augustine Almendra,a highly-rated youngster. Francesco Lo Celso, the younger brother of PSG's Giovani Lo Celso, who plays for Argentine Primer Division club Rosario Central. Most of the squad members play in the Argentina First Division with Boca Juniors, Rosario Central, and San Lorenzo boasting three players each in the squad.
(Photo: @IndianFootball)MOMENTS IN THE MATCH:
MINUTE 4 -- A lucky goal. India got a corner. Ninthoinganba Meetei swung the corner-kick that met Deepak Tangri's head. The shot should have been saved but the Argentinian goalkeeper fumbled the ball into his own net. INDIA 1-ARGENTINA 0
MINUTE 54 -- India's Aniket Jadhav is flashed the red card for a bad foul.
MINUTE 68 -- In a moment of pure inspiration, India's Anwar Ali curls a brilliantly struck free-kick that thunders into the underside of the bar's top right corner and into the net.
MINUTE 72 -- A chip goal by Argentina's Marinelli
EXTRA-TIME: An Argentinian effort rattles off the crossbar
(Photo: @IndianFootball)WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE GAME?
The Indian team was showered with praise for their gameplay and determination. Impressed, the organisers extended India an invitation to take part in next year's tournament. Despite the win though, India exited the tournament at the group stage itself. The Argentina team would go on to win the competition.
Coach Floyd Pinto, who had taken over from Portuguese coach Luis Norton de Matos just 10 days earlier, described the win as "unbelievable", but also cautioned against reading too much into the win.
"This victory will definitely earn Indian Football more respect in the world of football. It opens up a window of opportunity to test ourselves against the best in the World on a regular basis," Pinto said. "It's unbelievable! I am a very proud Indian today. This win is a testament to the efforts and belief of the All India Football Federation in moving forward towards developing the youth of the country..We have a renewed belief that with the right support & exposure we are capable to compete with the best teams in the world.".
"This victory should not be misconstrued. This doesn't mean that we will qualify for the U-20 World Cup, but this (win) gives us a new belief," said Floyd.
OPPOSITION PLAYERS SPEAK:
Legendary player Pablo Aimar, now the technical director of Argentina's U-20, and coach Lionel Scaloni visited the Indian camp after the game to chat with the players.
According to a PTI report, Aimar also suggested that Argentina would love to lock horns again with India in near future.
"We would be happy and would like to play other Indian age groups teams as well. The U-20 Indian National Team players played well with lot of passion and the players ran a lot during the matches," said Aimar. "We would be happy and would like to play matches against Indian National Teams in India or in Argentina in near future."
Scaloni singled out Amarjit Singh and Jeakson Singh for their performances.
"Indian Captain Amarjit Singh played very well against Argentina and Jeakson Singh was very impressive the manner he played against Murcia," Scaloni, who has taken up as the head coach of the Argentina senior national team, said. "If India continue to play like this for three or four more years, the players have a bright future ahead. We are happy to meet these young players."
THE ROAD AHEAD: The AIFF has announced that the U-20 team will play a four-nation tournament in Croatia from September 4 to 9. According to a report in Times of India, the other teams besides India and hosts Croatia will be France and Slovenia. Playing against such quality opponents would provide India the experience it needs for the players to take their game to the next level.
Abhishek Yadav, AIFF director of national teams told Times of India from Spain that results won't matter in Croatia.
"The plan for this season is to constantly test ourselves with the topmost footballing nations The calendar has been very thoughtfully planned and it's important to see where we stand. We are and will continue to learn from such high-level matches. It's great to have such backing from all the stakeholders, especially the ministry of youth affairs and Sports Authority of India (SAI) who are supporting these age-group teams like never before," he said.
CONCLUSION: On the same day, India also secured a memorable win over AFC U-16 Championship winners Iraq in the WAFF U-16 Championship in Jordan. These wins come just a month after the Indian Olympic Association reportedly refused to send the Indian football team to the Asian Games 2018 to be held in Jakarta and Palembang, reasoning that there was "no hope of the team winning any medal in the tournament". Amid the overstated lack of quality infrastructure in the country, the Indian football teams, across all age groups, have given spirited performances. The latest win may not necessarily be the watershed moment in Indian football, but it's the evidence of the quality the young Indian footballers possess. The question is less about the quality of the Indian footballers now. The young guns are ready, but is the administration listening?