Vikram Pratap Singh’s brilliance helps kick-off campaign in style.
India U-16 national team started their AFC U-16 Championship campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 win against Vietnam at the UM Arena Stadium at Kuala Lumpur on Friday. Despite dominating much of the game and missing many clear-cut chances at goal, India found their winner through a moment of brilliance from captain Vikram Pratap Singh in the 84th minute. This win gives the Blue Colts three crucial points heading into games against heavyweights Iran and Indonesia, meaning that a win against either could enable a historic progression into the next round.
Watch: Vietnam 0-1 India Highlights
Let’s talk about the takeaways from the match.
5. India will not be a pushover in the AFC U-16 Championship
India gave quite the courageous performance against Vietnam, who are reputed to have one of the better youth teams in Asia right now. Vietnam performed really well at the AFF Championship earlier this year and have an impressive history in the AFC U-16 Championship as well. The Blue Colts had to really wither the storm at the UM Arena, which was filled with Vietnamese supporters cheering on for their nation. Also, India managed to push back a team known for its attacking football and dominated them almost throughout the game. This historic win for the Indian team, which is the first time an Indian team has won in an AFC competition in a long time, proves how India are no longer push-overs who will stand down to threats. Bibiano Fernandes has instilled a really positive mentality in his boys, who show signs of fearlessness and are not going to be intimidated by anyone in this tournament.
4. Nguyen Dung kept India from scoring more goals
Vietnam might have been set-up in a way which was allowing them to frustrate India throughout the game, but India’s creativity in the middle allowed them to penetrate their defense on multiple opportunities. The Vietnamese defenders couldn’t seem to cope with India’s long balls forward, which allowed India’s strikers to go through on goal. But goalkeeper Nguyen Dung often put his body on the line to save his side from doom, making a few terrific saves, especially against Ravi and Sailo, as he remained strong on both occasions to deny them from scoring. Dung was Vietnam’s star man on the day and will need to be equally good if they’re to get anything from their next two matches.
3. Ravi Rana’s need to be more clever
Ravi Bahadur Rana might have had a relatively quiet game in terms of statistics, but his movement was something which can terrorize India U-16’s future opponents in the AFC U-16 championship. Rana is quite the energetic player, who mainly operates in the wings, but has the tendency of moving around the final third and cause problems for defenders marking him. Rana’s movement needs to be tracked more often by his peers and he was sought once in the game but was wrongly adjourned offside when he was closing in on goal. Rana brings a lot of unpredictable to India’s attack with his intelligent runs and could do real harm to opponents who don’t take him seriously.
2. India need to be clinical against Indonesia or Iran
India U-16 dominated much of the game against Vietnam and despite their stubborn defensive backline, the Blue Colts managed to penetrate their defense on a number of occasions. Ravi Rana missed a glorious chance in the first half when he was set through on goal by Vietnam’s own mistake, but couldn’t round up Dung. Lalchhamhima Sailo also missed two big chances in the 2nd half, the first one after he was one-on-one with the keeper but couldn’t put the ball into him back of the net. The second one was a bit difficult, but he still should’ve scored with Dung, not in his goal. Givson Singh also missed a tricky chance when his right-foot shot was saved by Dung, but Bibiano Fernandes needs to bring more lethality to his attackers because chances will not be aplenty against Iran nor Indonesia.
1. Vikram Pratap India’s most dangerous attacking outlet
The captain of the U-16 side, Vikram Pratap Singh led from the front in attacking with every opportunity he got against Vietnam. Singh was an absolute menace on the right flank and gave left-back Giap Duong nightmares at times. Singh showed endless energy and persistence in trying to create chances and despite being played in a different role, he thrived for the occasion. Vikram did not give up for one second, with his incredible passion giving him a boost of energy. It was that never-give-up attitude that allowed him to amazingly created the winner, when he incredibly cut into the middle from the right and left many defenders for dead, before being brought down inside the box. He then struck a terrific penalty, giving India the winner they needed and proving why he was given the captain’s armband by Bibiano Fernandes.