FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017: Five positives for Indian football team.

Hindustan Times

India’s maiden FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 campaign came to an end after their 4-0 loss to Ghana, but there were enough moments in the tournament to make the nation’s football fans proud.

The FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 will forever go down in history as the year India finally made their debut in a FIFA tournament. However, the hosts were unable to progress into the second round and ended their campaign with a 4-0 loss to Ghana.

Placed in a tough group that included heavyweights Ghana, USA and Colombia, India gave their all but succumbed to three successive defeat. However, there were some high points for the Indian Under-17 football team. Here are 5 positives to come out of this tournament:

Defensive organisation

Given the difference in quality between India and their Group A opponents, it wasn’t shocking to see coach Luis Norton de Matos go into games with a defensive mindset. The team was organised to defend in numbers and pick teams off on the counter.

Whilst India didn’t do much to trouble the scoresheets, scoring just once in three games, their defensive organisation was praised by the coaches of both USA and Colombia. This ability to defend deep when the opposition is constantly on the attack will come in handy when these boys make it to the senior level.

Dheeraj Moirangthem

Despite India setting up in a defensive manner, the amount of possession their opponents often had meant they were able to create chances. If not for the heroics of shot-stopper Dheeraj Moirangthem, there was every chance India might have conceded more goals than they did.

Dheeraj’s performance against Colombia was so good that he received a standing ovation from the New Delhi crowd after the game, the only player to get such an honour. If he continues to develop at this rate, Dheeraj Moirangthem might well be the long-term successor to Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.

Jeakson Singh’s goal

In their second group game, India were 1-0 down to Colombia but the hosts were looking to attack and the game looked far from over. India’s breakthrough finally came courtesy midfielder Jeakson Singh, who headed home Sanjeev Stalin’s cross to send the New Delhi crowd into delirium.

The joy was short-lived, as Colombia scored the winner just about a minute later. However, Jeakson’s goal will forever remain etched in history as the first goal scored by an Indian in a FIFA tournament, making the moment even sweeter for those who were there to witness it.

New Delhi crowd

India’s capital isn’t exactly renowned for being football-crazy. Indian Super League side Delhi Dynamos have often played in front of minimal fan support, so it was heartening to see the people of New Delhi turn out in big numbers for the FIFA U-17 World Cup games.

What’s even more impressive was just how noisy and passionate the crowd were. Drum beats, chants and even Mexican waves were regular occurrences at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which led to compliments not only from India coach Luis Norton de Matos, but also USA coach John Hackworth.

Gaining experience

Perhaps one of the biggest positives for the India U-17 football team is simply being there for the experience. Given their age and the lack of grass root development of the sport in India, they needed this experience just to learn what it is like to play against the world’s best.

Going up against these tough sides is also a good way for the players to learn which departments they can improve their game in. They might have lost all their games, but they undoubtedly learned more in defeat than they would have in victory.