5 historic football games that India has played

India Nehru Cup
Faizan Qadiri
Indian players celebrate after winning the 2012 Nehru Cup

India is a country renowned for producing great cricketers and legendary hockey players. Having produced arguably the two greatest sportsmen in these sports namely Sachin Tendulkar and Dhyan Chand, they have a huge following in the country. In recent years, Cricket has taken over as the most popular sport in the country, but in juggling so many sports, Indians sometimes ignore the most popular game on the planet – football.

India is placed 141 in the world according to the latest FIFA rankings. With India playing Oman in the first World Cup qualifier we have a look at five historic matches India has played in:

Iran 0-1 India: 1951 Asian Games Final

Sahu Mewalal
Sahu Mewalal

There was a time when India were the best team in Asia. India were Asia’s only representative in the 1948 Summer Olympics. India were the hosts in the very first Asian games held and being the best team in Asia, were the favorites for the Gold medal. In the quarters and the semi-final, they smashed Indonesia and Afghanistan for three goals each without reply to book a final with Iran. Sahu Mewalal was the top scorer with 3 goals in the opening two games.

India played almost the entire final on the front foot, but Iran had done their homework and had organized their team really well. But, that was till the 34th minute when the man of the tournament for India, Mewalal, scored the winning goal of the game. The score remained the same, but not from the lack of trying. The win confirmed India a gold medal in the tournament and the very first international tournament win.

France 1-1 India: 1960 Olympics

India 1960 France Olympics
The Indian football squad for the 1960 Olympics

In the 1960 Olympics held in Rome, India were placed in a very tough group with Hungary, France and Peru. In the first game, India came up against the mighty Hungary side. Even though the Hungarians were favorites to win the game and were leading 2-0 before the hour mark, a goal from Tulsidas Balaram made sure Hungary did not have an easy end to the game.

The second game India played was against France, who had finished 3rd in the World Cup two years ago. India dug deep to show character to stay in the game. India took the lead through the legendary PK Banerjee, who rattled the net in the 71st minute. Even though France equalized through Gerard Coincon in the 82nd minute, India were praised by the European media for their performances in the tournament.

India 2-1 South Korea: 1962 Asian Games Final

1962 India South Korea
India beat South Korea to win the Asian Games gold

After the heroics of the 1960 Olympics, India entered the 1962 Asian games with justified optimism. In the group stage, they were clubbed with South Korea, Japan and Thailand. The opening game was against the Koreans and India were shocked by a 2-0 score line.

With two teams qualifying from the group, India knew they still had their destiny in their hands. They beat Thailand and Japan convincingly to reach the semi-finals of the competition, where they beat South Vietnam 3-2 in a closely fought match.

The final was to be played between India and South Korea. With the South Koreans having already beaten India in the first match, Indian manager, Syed Abdul Rahim, made a surprise decision. He opted to deploy Jarnail Singh, primarily a defender, as a striker.

Singh repaid the manager’s faith in him by doubling the lead after PK Banerjee had scored in the 17th minute. The Koreans scored in the 85th minute to halve the deficit, but it was too little too late. That, unfortunately, remains India’s last gold medal won by the football team at the Asian games.

South Korea 0-2 India: 1964 Asian Cup

Inder Singh
Inder Singh (2nd from R) scored a goal against South Korea

With only four teams competing for the cup, India had a decent chance of winning the cup. Israel, South Korea and Hong Kong were the other teams competing for the cup. India played their first game against defending champions South Korea.

India had a host of talent at their disposal with the likes PK Banerjee, Jarnail Singh and Chuni Goswami at the peak of their careers. India thrashed the champions 2-0 with goals from Appalaraju and Inder Singh. However, India lost 2-0 against Israel in the second game of the tournament and Israel went on to beat all other teams to lift the trophy. India went on to finish second, which to this day, remains their best-ever performance in an Asian Cup.

India 1-0 UAE: 2002 World Cup Qualifier

Jules Alberto
Indian players celebrating Jules Alberto’s goal

In the 2002 World Cup Qualification group stage, India were drawn with UAE, Brunei and Yemen. India played one of their best games in recent history against UAE at home. UAE were one of the best teams in Asia at that time and when the groups were made, it was assumed UAE would qualify with ease.

UAE visited Bangalore in 2001 as hot favourites to win the game. India maintained their shape really well and were disciplined throughout the game. In front of a 40,000 plus crowd, Jules Alberto was the quickest to react to a loose ball and tap it over the onrushing keeper to keep the hope alive.

India defended for their lives and came away with a 1-0 win. Even though they did not qualify for the World Cup, that was the most exciting day for the modern generation of Indian football fans across the country.

Edited by Staff Editor


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