The Indian national football team has been prone to conceding second-half goals for a long time. Just when it seems that the team has accomplished their mission, a momentary lapse in concentration in the second half hampers their ambitions.
One doesn't have to turn the pages of Indian football's history books to recall the last time the Indian football team suffered misery in the dying embers of the match. India needed just a draw against Bahrain in the last group stage match of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup to qualify for the Round of 16. However, their dreams got shattered right in the 91st minute.
The Blue Tigers and Colts endured similar agonizing fates in the past, including one in the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Without any further ado, here are the 5 most heartbreaking second-half losses in the Indian football history.
#5 1982 Asian Games Quarter Finals - India 0-1 Saudi Arabia (Ahmed Bayazid 89')
The Indian team was marred in controversy before the 1982 Asian Games started as several players decided not to play for the nation and represent their club in club competitions instead.
Field Marshal Maneckshaw bailed India in the last minute, negotiating a deal between the players and the All India Football Federation, wherein they would get 2000 per month while they were not on duty with the club.
India started the tournament with a bang by defeating Bangladesh 2-0 and Malaysia 1-0 in the group stages. They held mighty China in the next match with goals from Shabbir Ali and Karthick Seth aiding in India's 2-2 draw.
In the quarterfinals, they had the simple task of overcoming Saudi Arabia, who were only making their second appearance in the continental extravaganza. The Middle-Eastern side managed to keep the Indian strikers in the bay and, Ahmed Bayazid dealt the deathblow in the 89th minute in front of a packed Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi.
If India had won the encounter, they would have been automatically awarded the bronze medal as the other bronze-medal playoff team North Korea were disqualified from the event.
#4 2014 AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers Group Stage - Myanmar 1-0 India (Soe Min Oo 75')
India won the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup held in their own country to qualify for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. Having finished at the bottom of the table in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup, winning the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup was India's only possible way to make it to the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.
Jewel Raja Singh and Robin Singh's strikes in the opener and, goals from Clifford Miranda and Jewel Raja and a brace from Sunil Chhetri ensured India won their first two encounters 2-1 against Chinese Taipei and 4-0 against Guam. The Blue Tigers required only a point against Myanmar in the final group stage match but they succumbed to their South East Asian neighbours.
Soe Min Oo's strike in the 75th minute meant India finished in the second spot and had to rely on other teams' result to progress to the final tournament. The format of the tournament meant only two second-placed teams could advance to the next round and, India finished third behind Laos and Turkmenistan.
#3 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup Group Stage - India (Jeakson Singh 82') 1-2 Colombia (Juan Penaloza 49', 83')
2017 was a historic year for India as their U-17 team got a taste of how it feels to participate in a FIFA U-17 World Cup. Although they qualified as the hosts and not by merit, they put up a commendable performance against USA in the opener and lost 3-0, hitting the crossbar once in the process.
Against Colombia, they again displayed a scintillating account of counter-attacking football. The visitors took the lead in the 49th minute through Juan Penaloza and India blazed all their guns to find the equalizer. Sanjeev Stalin curled in a deadly corner kick in the 82nd minute and Jeakson Singh towered above the South American defenders to nod it home.
However, the team got so engrossed in scoring their first goal in a FIFA World Cup that they forgot that the game hadn't finished and Colombia made them pay.
Juan Penaloza scored within a span of sixty seconds to restore the lead and diminish India's hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages. In the next game, Ghana thrashed India 4-0 to end their campaign.
#2 2018 AFC U-16 Championships Quarter Finals - South Korea (Jeong Sang-bin 68') 1-0 India
India's performance in the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup showed that the nation had enough character and fitness to rub shoulders against the footballing superpowers in the junior level. The next task was to prove the world that it wasn't a flash in the pan and, the grassroots program was indeed a success.
The 2018 AFC U-16 Championships doubled up as the qualifiers to the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup and, Bibiano Fernandes and his boys only had to reach the semi-finals to ensure India make their second consecutive appearance in the tournament.
In the group stages, they edged out Vietnam 1-0 through Vikram Pratap Singh's penalty in the 86th minute before holding Asian powerhouses Iran 0-0 and Indonesia to a goalless stalemate.
India gave an extremely good display of defensive solidarity in the quarter-final against South Korea and even managed to hit the crossbar in the counter. However, the dogged resistance was finally broken in the 68th minute by Jeong Sang-bin after he latched on a rebound from a well-taken free kick. That goal was enough to shatter India's dreams.
#1 2019 AFC Asian Cup Group Stage - India 0-1 Bahrain (Jamal Rashed 90+1')
Like in the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup and the 2018 AFC U-16 Championships, the senior Indian team gave a very good account of counter-attacking football in the first two group stage matches of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
In the opener against Thailand, the Blue Tigers surprised the War Elephants by humiliating them 4-1 before luck favoured UAE in a 2-0 victory for the hosts. The fact that they required only a draw to progress to the knockouts played into their mind which ultimately cost them.
Against Bahrain, they went extremely defensive and lobbed meaningless long balls up front. The Middle-Eastern nation lodged a barrage of shots and, if it weren't for Sandesh Jhingan's heroic defending and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu's brilliant positioning, India would have been behind way before.
India's scrappy defending ultimately favoured Bahrain as Pronay Halder gifted them the penalty in the 90th minute. Jamal Rashed waited for Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to dive towards his left before slotting the ball in the centre of the net to shatter a billion Indian hearts.