As Jeakson Thaunaojam scored against Colombia, the roof of the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium came down. India had scored for the first time ever in a FIFA competition. It was a moment of ecstasy and joy like never before for the football fan in the country. For the die-hard followers of the game, it was a surreal feeling. A dream had been realized. It was not just an important equalizer but a symbol of the fact that the beautiful game is rising in the country.
The jubilation, died a minute later. Hardly does the mood of a nation change so quickly. The young boys lost concentration and gave the lead back to the Colombians. It was the 83rd minute and there could not be any coming back from there. It ended up in being a second consecutive defeat for India. In a way, the heartbroken fans and players exhibited how impressive a show the youngsters had put in. The boys had gone down but not without a fight. They gave their fans a lot to take pride in. Over the last couple of games, the youngsters have made every Indian optimistic about a better future.
The disappointment of today will make them better players. Today, the game showed how cruel it can be at times. It demonstrated how hard it is to play at the highest level. But one day, they might look back at it as a blessing in disguise. Keeping your composure is the most important thing in sport. In the excitement of the moment, they lost their calmness and threw the match. Seeing the great strides this side has already made, one can be confident they will learn from it. Sometimes as many great players will tell you, these are the moments that teach the greatest lessons.
On Monday Night, not just the home fans but neutral observers of the game felt that the blue colts deserved at least a point from the game. For most parts, India went toe to toe with Colombia. One must not underestimate the enormity of it. The South Americans are a land of great footballing tradition. Their senior team had reached the Quarter Finals of the last World Cup in Brazil. They are the homeland of current football superstars like James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao. Not to forget, an encounter between the same two sides had ended in a 3-0 victory for the Colombians only a couple of months ago.
Except for the physicality factor, one could argue hosts were as good or even better than their opponents. One has to admit quite evidently the Indian players were getting outmuscled quite easily by their opponents. It is definitely something for the coaches and authorities to take note off. In a contact game like football, being strong and muscular is inevitably very important. That part of the game definitely needs work but the good news is, it is one aspect that only needs the correct level of training and conditing to improve.
Not sure if I’ve been happier watching a goal scored by an Indian team. So much to be proud about and so much to learn. #INDvCOL
— Sunil Chhetri (@chetrisunil11) October 9, 2017
Yes, the stats will tell you that Colombia dominated possession. The numbers will show that Colombia had vastly more shots on goal and target. These might indicate to a person who did not watch the match, that India was comfortably outplayed. While in reality that was far from the case.
In reality, India was resilient and confident in defense. The colts for the second time in a row produced a defensive performance that will satisfy the best of coaches. Most of Columbia’s time on the ball led to nothing productive. A lot of their attempts on goals were long-rangers which were fired in hope.
Also, except for the goals, the better chances fell to the Indians. Firstly, the brilliant opportunity Abhijeet Sarkar got from a difficult angle after beating two defenders in the 15th minute. Then, just before halftime, Rahul hit the crossbar with a fierce volley from his left foot. In the second half, Substitute Aniket Jadhav did some great work on the left wing to set up Rahim Ali, who could not beat the keeper. On another day, these chances would have gone in. Like against U.S.A, luck had completely deserted the Indians. On Friday, it could have been a different match. Today, it would have been a different result.
Certain individuals have caught the eye of football fanatics around the nation. The likes of Anwar Ali, Boris, and Sanjeev Stalin have impressive to say the least from the backline. Aniket Jadhav has exhibited his potential in patches. Komal Thatal, who surprisingly did not take the pitch against Columbia but was dazzling in the opening game has everyone excited. Though, none has been as impressive as the Indian goalkeeper. The most capped member of the Indian side is, by all means, the jewel in the crown of this team. In both matches so far, he has pulled out numerous tough saves to keep the Indians competitive. Along with that, Dheeraj has shown fantastic distributions skills and a remarkable ability with his long throws.
All this would have be worth nothing if the authorities forget these players after the world cup. The AIFF and Sports Ministry must ensure their potential is given the right platform to develop. These players are only aged 17 right now. They have all time and talent in the world to develop into top quality players. All they need is the right facilities, conditions, and mentorship. For a country with India’s size and resources that is not much to expect. Fans must also continue to back them in order to ensure they remain encouraged. We, as a nation have failed many athletes in the past. This lot is the opportunity to correct that.