U-17 World Cup: India goes down fighting against Colombia


hey worked up the pace and drummed up the spirit to challenge Colombia at every step but lacked the flair to finish. When they did manage, the Colombians hit back within a minute.

A vociferous audience participated in India’s endeavour to make a fight of it in the group fixture of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Monday.

If only India could shackle Juan Penaloza, who knocked in the goals for Colombia in the 49th and 82nd, after Jeakson Thounaojam had equalised in the 81st with a header from a corner.

India’s hopes may have receded temporarily but there were encouraging indications of the game commanding the attention of the nation.

The Indian colts ensured it on a wonderful night that earned them great appreciation of the fans.

Colombia closed out the contest 2-1 to stay in the reckoning from the group after United States became the first team to go ahead with a 1-0 win against Ghana, which meets India in its last league match on Thursday.

United States confronted Ghana with some clever off-the-ball running and swift counter-attacks in the first half but Ghana launched a torrid offensive in the second.

The critical moment came in the 75th minute through lanky substitute Ayo Akinola, who dodged two defenders and placed the ball to the left corner. Ghana’s desperate efforts, however, remained futile and the US made it to the next stage.

India rested Suresh Singh, Jitendra Singh, Aniket Jadhav and Komal Thatal. Colombia went in with four changes, too, to show its intent to attack more.

There was early excitement when Abhijit Sarkar broke into the Colombian box.

The crowd rose to its feet only to see him fritter away the chance, placing the ball over an advancing goalkeeper.

Goalkeeper Kevin Mier managed to palm off another dangerous move created by a Sarkar-Rahim Ali tandem.

The Colombians were rattled by the spirit shown by the Indian colts, chasing every opponent, crowding the strikers, leaving little space to manoeuvre.

Colombia adopted desperate measures, explored through counters but this was a motivated Indian combination that stood up bravely.

The danger of leaving its goal unguarded was always there as India looked to score. In a casual movement, the ball was conceded and Yadir Meneses let go a scorching left-footer which Dheeraj Singh blocked with élan.

A little earlier he had foiled Leandro Campaz’s header with superb anticipation. India, however, wasted its best chance when Rahul Kannoly hit the post on assist by Boris Thangjam.

The Indian resistance suffered a hole in the fifth minute on resumption when Colombia grabbed the chance just inside the box. Penaloza stabbed the ball into the right corner with a hard left-footed drive.

To Indian supporters the goal may have appeared against the run of play, but Colombia had waited and planned the execution.

A chance to equalise went abegging in the 75th minute when substitute Naoram shot into the goalkeeper from handshaking distance.

Coach Luis Norton de Matos can take pride in his team as it trooped out to a standing ovation from the crowd amidst chants of “India, India”.

The results: United States 1 (Ayo Akinola 75) bt Ghana 0.

Colombia 2 (Juan Penaloza 49, 82) bt India 1 (Jeakson Thounaojam).

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