The nation’s U-16 and U-20 teams both scripted history for its football in different parts of the world.

As the U-23 Indian National team gears up for the SAFF Championships in New Delhi, the other age groups have big making the big waves elsewhere. On an evening that will stay with the Indian football fans forever, the India U-16 team defeated current AFC U-16 Champions Iraq 1-0 while the India U-20 side defeated the mammoth Argentine team 2-1 in the COTIF Cup in Spain.

Yes, both results came the same evening. India is certainly proud of its prodigal sons and their achievements.


India defeated Asian champions Iraq U-16 on Sunday night

India 1-0 Iraq (U-16)

The 1-0 win over Iraq will not shock people who know about the kind of side coach Bibiano Fernandes is building. The same team had defeated host Jordan 4-0 last week in the opening match of WAFF U-16 Championship, courtesy a hat-trick from Captain Vikram Pratap Singh and the fourth by Bekey Oram.

This side had lost 2-1 to Japan in its last game, but had let the game for a while. It was historic, as India had scored against the East Asian country for the first time in 36 years. Iraq, meanwhile, were shocked by the discipline shown by their Indian counterparts.

“I knew we were getting close to scoring. I just had to tell the boys not to give up till the end and to stick to the plan till the final whistle. It eventually paid dividends,” coach Bibiano Fernandes said.

“I would like to dedicate this win to all my fellow Indian Coaches who train the boys before they join us at the AIFF Academy and eventually the National Team. We need to start believing in ourselves. The team thanks the fans and well-wishers of Indian Football who have always stood by us,” Bibiano added.

The Indian U-16 side have been playing well for some time now, having drawn against Asian heavyweights Iran goalless on 24 September 2017 during the AFC Qualifiers. That draw helped India to qualify for the 2018 AFC U-16 Championship. Fernandes has helped the side with freedom, free-flowing football and the lads have never looked back.

Spearheaded by Rohit Danu, Givson Singh Moirangthem and Bekey Oram in attack, the defensive security is provided by the heavily talented Thoiba Moirangthem and Harpreet Singh. Captain Pratap Singh has played for the cause of the team, starting as striker, right winger, and a No. 10 whenever the need arises.

This team can be expected to qualify for the knockout stages of the AFC Championship, to be held in Malaysia from 20 September – 7 October 2018.


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India defeated Argentina U-20 on Sunday night

India 2-1 Argentina (U-20)

Floyd Pinto’s side had lost to Murcia U-20 (2-0) and Mauritania U-20 (3-0) in the first two games. In the third and prior to the historic win, the lads held Venezuela U-20 to a goalless draw. On Monday, India defeated the record six-time U-20 World Cup champions, courtesy goals from Deepak Tangri and a wonderful free-kick from defender Anwar Ali.

Earlier the same day, Lionel Scaloni, manager of the U-20 Argentina side, was named as the interim manager of the Argentina senior side. Pablo Aimar, the proclaimed inspiration of Lionel Messi, is the technical director of the side that was booted by India. India were down to 10 men as  Aniket Jadhav was shown the marching orders in the second half. And yet, they managed to hold on to the lead and defeat Argentina. No mean feat.

Pinto, talking after the victory, rightly said, “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. I also need to highlight the U-16 boys winning against current U-16 Asian Champions Iraq on the same day. Both victories are proof that this bunch of young U-16 and U-20 players is undergoing a systematic planning and exposure with the right kind of matches which is required for their continuous development.”

Venezuela U-20 manager Marcos Mathias had said, after his side was held goalless by India, “I am very pleasantly surprised India played like this. (They) played very well and were very organised. They maintained their team shape very well and if India continues to play like this, they have a bright future ahead.”

Boris Singh Thangjam was picked out by Mathias and was revered. “Their right back was quite exceptional today,” said the 48-year-old manager.

Both sides have shown flashes of brilliance in the past and whenever the opportunity arises, the lads have taken it upon themselves to ensure the results come right. India must now burn the demons of the FIFA U-17 World Cup and look at tournaments like the AFC U-16 Championships, the AFC Asian Cup and more Cups that involve better teams.

Needless to say, both sides still have some way to go to make their marks in history, but they’ve certainly given India an evening every national should be proud of. India’s victory over Argentina should at least be bracketed with India’s loss to France (2-1), India’s first goal at a FIFA World Cup and stories similar to that.