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Talking Points: Is Niraj Kumar the next Dheeraj Singh?

Written by: Waseem Zaidi

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The Blue Colts missed a flurry of chances which could have helped them secure a berth in the knockout stages.

The AFC U-16 Championship is well underway and the fixtures are coming thick and fast. Before Monday’s crucial fixture against Iran U-16, the Blue Colts had started their campaign with a vital victory over Vietnam, earning three points. A victory over the heavyweights and runners-up in the last campaign, Iran, would have ensured qualification from the group stages, however, a draw is a point well-earned.

As for Iran, the 2-0 defeat against Indonesia meant this was a do-or-die fixture for them. They are a powerhouse in Asian football. Therefore, let’s have a look at how the Indian Colts fared against one of the favourites of the competition.

Watch: India 0-0 Iran highlights

5. Niraj Kumar the star man for India

The draw against Iran and a clean-sheet are evidence of the brilliance that was on display by the Indian goalkeeper Niraj Kumar. The custodian was instrumental in holding the opposition back and made several crucial saves, including a penalty in the second half.

Kumar was the standout performer for India, showing incredible composure and commanding the box with immense ease. It bodes well for the side to have a reliable figure in between the posts. He will surely continue to play a vital role in the matches to come.

4. Defensive solidity earned India a well-deserved point

The result could not have been achieved without a strong, gritty and a solid display at the back by the defense. Similar to their first match against Vietnam, the Indian defence was well organised and soaked up the pressure well. The Iranian strikers were denied time and again with a direct shot at goal and were pressed with intensity.

Moirangthem Thoiba Singh and Bikash showed composure on the ball and maintained a strong structure at the back. It goes without saying that, if India are to go far in the competition, the defence needs to do more of the same.



3. A flurry of missed chances in the dying minutes could come back to haunt India

India could have easily won the game if the strikers had converted the chances they had in the dying stages of the match. Iran were desperate to score and as a result commitd too many players forward, leaving the defence vulnerable.

Showing high pressing and decent counter-attacking capabilities, India caught Iran on their heels on a couple of occasions and substitute, Sailo missed two one-on-one opportunities that if converted, could have ensured a historic victory for the Colts and a place in the knockouts rounds.


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2. India lacked any attacking flair, were outplayed by Iranian center-backs

The strikers from India never really came into the game until the later stages. The long ball policy was adopted as early as in the 30th minute of the match. The leaner and shorter strikers were quite honestly no match for the stronger and taller centre-backs from Iran, especially in the air. Moreover, players like Vikram Pratap Singh and Melvin D'Mello lacked composure on the ball, showing a lack of patience and a tendency to make decisions in haste. Add to that, the missed chances at the end resulted in a disappointing outing for the forwards.

1. India need to show more calmness and composure on the ball

Iran clearly had more possession and clear-cut chances than India. Composure was something the Indian squad badly lacked, maybe due to their lack of experience. The defensive line showed more control on the ball than the forwards.

This led to Iran dominating the middle of the pitch since Indian attackers never made any combination, lacked patience and there was no composure when they had possession. The long ball strategy did not work and if the second half is taken into consideration, then India need to adopt more short and quick passing into their game, as it serves their technically adept players better.

India head into the next fixture knowing that a point will more or less ensure their qualification. They will now play Indonesia U-16 on Thursday, 27 September 2018.

Published: Mon Sep 24, 2018 07:34 PM IST

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