After an unfortunate 0-3 opening match defeat against USA, India took on Colombia in their second and seemingly do or die match at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium at New Delhi earlier today.
Colombia had also lost their opening group game against Ghana. But despite another brave effort by the young guns, including scoring their first ever goal, India went down fighting 1-2. The host nation are almost on the verge of elimination from their first ever FIFA tournament after two straight losses.
India coach Luis Norton de Matos made 4 changes to the Indian starting line up today. Boris Singh Thangjam, Namit Deshpande, Jeakson Singh Thaunaojam and Rahim Ali started in places of Jitendra Singh, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Komal Thatal and Aniket Anil Jadhav respectively for The Blue Tigers in a seemingly 4-4-1-1 formation.
Colombian coach Orlando Restrepo also made 4 changes to the first XI of Los Cafeteros with Guillermo Tegue Caicedo, Gustavo Carvajal, Fabian Angel and Luis Miguel Lopez replacing Robert Meija, Andres Felipe Perea, Brayan Gomez and Etilso Martinez Palacio respectively.
India started the match on a very positive note going forward quite often than their previous game and started creating better chances. A great chance fell the way of Abhijit Sarkar in the 16th minute when he found himself inside the box dribbling past the Colombian defence before unleashing a great shot from a tight angle. The Colombian goalkeeper Kevin Mier pulled off a spectacular save to deny the boy from Bengal a chance to write his name in the history books.
The Indian defence were playing efficiently to keep the mighty South Americans at bay from scoring their first goal of the tournament. But Colombia found a few great chances too, and as many as three of their great chances were thwarted by the Indian custodian Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem in the first half.
The Indian colts were denied by the goal post (of their first goal) in their opening match and their share of ill luck continued with an almost action replay of the same in the dying moments of the first half. Rahul Kannoly Praveen’s half volley had Mier beaten, only to be denied by the goal post. The match was still goalless at the break.
Colombia was early to strike in the second half when Juan Peñaloza put the Colombians ahead in the 49th minute after displaying some brilliant skills to find the net beyond the outstretched arms of Dheeraj Singh with a curling left footer.
Despite falling behind, the Indian boys kept their head up and refused to give regardless off having lesser possesion. The Indian coach made two substitutions in the second half, when he went to a more attacking approach. He replaced attacking midfielder Abhijit Sarkar with forward Aniket Jadhav in the 66th minute before replacing a “head plastered” Boris with Nongdamba in the 75th.
India enjoyed the fruits of the substitutions as the historic moment came in the 82nd minute. Sanjeev Stalin’s corner from the right was brilliantly headed in by Jeakson Singh to write his name in the history books as the first ever Indian scorer in a FIFA tournament. The header was the result of a brilliantly executed spot jump before delivering the ball with power and precision.
But as they say, in Football you are most vulnerable when you just scored. The prophecy came true again as the Indian team somewhat went to sleep following the flow of emotions of scoring their first ever goal and committed a fatal error at the back.
No sooner play resumed after the equaliser, Colombia struck back again through the same man. Gustavo Carvajal’s brilliant chipped pass found Peñaloza who again showed great quality and composure to trap the ball with a brilliant first touch. He wiggled into the penalty area with two defenders on his shoulder before guiding the ball efficiently passed an on rushing Dheeraj into the far corner with his right foot.
Colombia managed to hold on to their lead to clinch home their first win of the 2017 World Cup, keeping their hopes alive for progress.
India on the contrary, are standing on the edge of elimination after two straight defeats. Despite the defeat, the brave fighting spirit and the historical goal by Jeakson have surely won the hearts of the Indian football fans in their first ever World Cup appearance.
Realistically India have a very thin chance of progressing to the further rounds. Defeating the mighty Ghanaians will be a herculean task and even that will not guarantee India’s progress. India need to beat Ghana by at least a margin of 2 goals and then hope that other results go in their favour.
On the whole, the India boys put up a much improved show than their first outing. The millions of Indian fans can only hope that the performance will only improve in their final group, and seemingly their last World Cup game, for the fans to rejoice and be proud off.