Another acid test awaits as India face Colombia
By Abhishek Hore
New Delhi, Oct 8 (PTI) The longingness to be noticed will again be the main driving force for India as they brace up to face another mighty opponent in Colombia in the FIFA U-17 World Cup here tomorrow.
In the country's maiden appearance in any World Cup game, India got a taste of the cut-throat world of international football as they were blanked 3-0 by USA in the tournament's opening night at a nearly packed Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
India showed heart but lacked in skill and quality against a much superior United States of America. And a similar task awaits the host nation tomorrow as well.
Midfield lynchpin Suresh Singh felt India would need to improve their final pass, but an improvement in department would not be enough against Colombia's all-round superiority.
The hosts would like to take some inspiration from Niger, another World Cup debutants, who kicked off their campaign in the tournament with a win over North Korea last night.
If the African nation can, so can the Indians. Though it is easier said than done.
First up, India tried, but could not really show the world that they belong to this league in a tournament that has produced players who would go on to become stars.
Coach Luis Norton de Matos was not happy with the outcome of the opening game, and he would be hoping that his players put up a better show against the South American giants.
"Colombia are tough opponents and they possess the necessary elements to hurt us. We have to be on our toes all throughout and have to focus on the task at hand. They (Colombia) will also give us a tough physical fight but we are ready for it. We will play to win," Matos said.
Against USA, the team showed sparks on occasions, but the Portuguese would want his players go beyond that tomorrow.
India did create chances and impressed with the skills, once also coming agonisingly close to scoring their first-ever World Cup goal. But USA was clearly the better of the two teams, dominating throughout the game in front of a strong home crowd egging them on.
Komal Thatal, the striker with a blond hairdo, caught the eyes with his runs down the left and dribbling skills. Thatal, who hails from Bhaichung Bhutia's state Sikkim, created quite a few openings for India. Though he was once guilty of wasting a chance in the second half when his lob was off target.
His partner up front, Aniket Jadhav, also impressed with his game, and both have a bright future. The defensive duo of Anwar Ali and Jitendra Singh tried their best to keep USA at bay, but the gulf was too much for India to bridge.
Physically as well as technically, India lagged. But for some brilliant saves and fine anticipation by goalkeeper Moirangthem Deeraj Singh, India would have lost by a bigger margin.
Playing in their maiden FIFA tournament, rank outsiders India were outclassed by a side that was a few notches above the 'Boys in Blue'.
India were way behind as far as the accuracy in passes, the first touch, positional sense were concerned against USA. India were pushed back in their own half most of the time in the face of incessant US attack.
Tomorrow will be a different day with a different opponent, but the raids are likely to continue. More or less, it is going to be the same against Colombia.
Outside the field of play, Matos will hope that a sizeable crowd will again turn up to cheer them on.
Having tasted defeat against Ghana in their first game, Colombia will be desperate to open their account and will certainly go all out. They will look to score as many as possible to bag full points and improve their goal difference.
Colombia have so far competed in five editions of the tournament, finishing third on two occasions. They hustled and bustled their way to India with a last-ditch victory over continental rival Paraguay, but they will still be a handful for the Indians.
The first to land in India for the tournament, Colombia have acclimatised themselves with the conditions, though they started the tournament with a reverse.
India: Dheeraj Singh, Prabhsukhan Gill, Sunny Dhaliwal, Jitendra Singh, Anwar Ali, Sanjeev Stalin, Hendry Antonay, Namit Deshpande, Suresh Singh, Ninthoinganba Meetei, Amarjit Singh Kiyam, Abhijit Sarkar, Komal Thatal, Lalengmawia, Jeakson Singh, Nongdamba Naorem, Rahul Kannoly Praveen, Md. Shahjahan, Rahim Ali, Aniket Jadhav.
USA: Alex Budnik, Carlos Joaquim Dos Santos, Justin Garces, Sergino Dest, Christopher Gloster, Jaylin Lindsey, James Sands, Tyler Shaver, Akil Watts, George Acosta, Taylor Booth, Christopher Durkin, Blaine Ferri, Chris Goslin, Indiana Vassilev, Ayo Akinola, Andrew Carleton, Jacobo Reyes, Bryan Reynolds, Joshua Sargent, Tim Weah.
Match starts at 8pm IST