India U20 team picked up one of their most memorable football triumphs by beating traditional giants Argentina 2-1 even while being reduced to ten men at the COTIF Cup in Valencia, Spain. Deepak Tangri (4th minute) and Anwar Ali (68′) found their name on the scoresheet as the Floyd Pinto-coached side beat six-time U-20 world champions, coached by 2006 World Cupper Lionel Scaloni and former mid-field star Pablo Aimar – who have been appointed to take over with the senior team on an interim basis.
The win comes as a massive boost for Pinto’s side, who had lost 0-2 to Murcia before going down 0-3 to Mauritania. They were held to a goalless draw by Venezuela in their previous match in the tournament.
“This victory will definitely earn Indian Football more respect in the world of football. It opens up a window of opportunity to test ourselves against the best in the World on a regular basis,” Pinto said after the match.
“It’s unbelievable! I am a very proud Indian today. This win is a testament to the efforts and belief of the All India Football Federation in moving forward towards developing the youth of the country.
“We have a renewed belief that with the right support & exposure we are capable to compete with the best teams in the world,” he added.
From a Ninthoiganba Meetei corner, Tangri headed the ball into the back of the net to give India the lead in as early as the fourth minute. Suresh Singh Wangjam and Boris Singh Thangjam almost put Aniket Jadhav through on two occasions with India on a high following the early goal. But both times, Jadhav was adjudged to be offisde and India went into the break with a 1-0 lead.
Ali squandered a big chance to double the advantage after he received a pass from captain Amarjit Singh Kiyam but his shot was saved by the Argentine goalkeeper.
Forward Jadhav was shown his marching orders in the 54th minute for a rough challenge and India were thus reduced to ten men with a slender goal lead in hand.
India goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Gill was then on hand to pull off two brilliant saves – first in thr 56th minute and then the 61st minute to keep the Pinto-managed team into lead.
With Argentina trying to get the equaliser, it was India who doubled their advantage when Anawar Ali’s free kick hit the back of the net in the 68th minute to make it 2-0 to India. A foul on Rahim Ali gave India the set piece opportunity and Anwar was spot on to send the ball into the goal after it hit the woodwork.
Four minutes later, Argentina pulled one back to give India nervous 18 minutes to endure. But as the referee blew the final whistle, India had registered a remarkable win and one that will go down in history.
“The one thing missing from our continued development through this tournament were goals. I am really happy the boys adapted so quickly and effectively to the changes we made post our first gamer. I just couldn’t have asked for a better reaction,” the India coach said.
“The bench was understandably ecstatic yet calm as there was a lot of football yet to be played. Deepak Tangri’s goal was one of a sheer determination while Anwar Ali’s free-kick was of the highest order. We wanted to put in a performance that would make people forget about our previous game against Venezuela U-20 and the boys managed to do that.”
The win would further embarrass the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) who had chosen not to send the football team for the Asian Games calling it “dead weight”.
(With PTI inputs)