A bright India provided hope for a brighter future but their dream ended in a heartbreak following a 1-2 defeat to Colombia today in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, leaving the many heads totting the stands teary-eyed.
When defensive midfielder Jeakson Thounaojam neutralized Colombia’s lead by scoring the country’s first-ever World Cup goal in the 82nd minute, India were moments away from securing their maiden draw in only the second attempt.
But that was not to be as Juan Penaloza (83rd) scored his second of the night on the counter to leave the home players, as well as the crowd, crestfallen.
Nonetheless, a charged up India produced one of their finest performances before going down in front of a disappointed but proud group of spectators, who witnessed a historic first-ever FIFA World Cup goal.
India scored when Jeakson, the tallest player in the side, headed in a Sanjeev Stalin corner, sending the whole stadium into a state of delirium.
The move to make four changes by coach Luis Norton de Matos proved to be a wise one as the taller Indian players ensured they were equal to the task, when it came to the aerial battle against the well-built Colombians.
It was a very different India that turned up after the 0 -3 loss to USA three nights ago.
They were on the ball from the word go and even though the Colombians had more of possession, India very much managed to make their presence felt.
There was heightened activity in the Colombian box, with Ninthoinganba Meetei initiating surging runs down the right flank, each steps raising hopes for the improbable.
This was in the in the beginning of the Group A match.
To the surprise, and delight, of the sizeable crowd at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, India had Colombia at their mercy in the 16th minute.
But, to the disappointment of the thousands occupying the stands, Abhijeet Sarkar, having found a clear view of the goal, shot over.
India’s hopes went up in smoke after coming agonizingly close to scoring their first ever World Cup goal.
In the cut-throat world of international football, Colombia may be many, many rungs above India, but the host nation had the momentum on this night. And they used it to rattle the Colombians on a few occasions.