The Blue Colts might have lost all three games on their tour but they still had much to gain from the exposure.
The India U-19 team on Sunday, ended their four-nation tournament in Croatia with a 2-0 defeat against France. The Floyd Pinto managed side may have conceded ten times in four outings in the Central European country, but managed to thread some interesting results against the best from the football-crazy continent.
India started the campaign poorly, losing 5-0 to Croatia. The team conceded four goals in the first half, the most in any 45-minute period across the tournament. Clearly struggling to adapt to conditions, the boys grew well, in the course of the match. The team also lost 0-1 to Slovenia, but if Aniket Jadhav and Rahim Ali could finish better, the story could easily have been different.
The team faced Slovenia and Croatia alongside France, facing losses every time they took the pitch. Playing against the World Cup winners and finalists Croatia, though, did the team a world of good, with the side playing some smart football. The lads displayed commendable grit and showed they can match the opponents kick-for-kick. Khel Now takes a look at a few positives that came out of the tournament for the Blue Colts.
India have moved on from the heroics of Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem
Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem looks happy in the Kerala Blasters jersey, but there’s someone certainly happier than him. Leave Dheeraj, enter Prabhsukhan Gill. The Punjab lad had been in the Manipuri’s shadow for a long time, but now that he’s being given a chance, he’s proving to be a handful. Gill was India’s second-choice at last year’s U-17 FIFA World Cup and is reaping the benefits of Dheeraj’s move to the Blasters.
Gill was instrumental in India’s 2-1 win against Argentina, making eight key saves throughout the game. The youngster was riding on some good confidence coming into the tournament and after an indifferent first half against Croatia, when he conceded four goals, Gill looked commanding and confident, usually displaying grit and immaculate positioning as well as collection.
The experience of facing world champions and finalists
To put the point across, France’s most exciting star at the moment, Kylian Mbappe, as also Croatia’s captain who recently won the European Player of the Year award, Luka Modric, both played eleven games each for their respective countries at the U-19 level. Imagine one of the lads that played against India turning into a global star and that, in itself, is a good story for the country.
The boys certainly will have a nicer, more confident feeling about themselves. Adapting to different surroundings, situations, and putting in performances that make the nation proud is no mean feat. India lost to Slovenia by a solitary late goal, however, but for Aniket Jadhav’s double miss from distance, they should’ve equalized or led against France. They were only completely outplayed against Croatia, but grew into the game in the second half.
It’s a growing story for the side that played the World Cup
You know how CVs work? They take a look at who you’ve worked for in the past. Similarly, for a country’s football team, oppositions look at the countries you’ve played against. Having played Argentina, France and Croatia in quick succession, the stock of this side is pretty high. They are now heading to play two successive friendlies against Serbia and the AIFF can easily call upon any Asian country to play this side at its level, with no difficulty.
The logistics bit, though, has to be managed by the governing body, but given the solid performances by the boys, the Asian teams will be happy to face them in terms of preparation.
Preparation for I-League 2018-19
The Indian Arrows will be playing their second season in the I-League and finished disastrously at the bottom of the heap last campaign. Winning just a handful of games, the new side certainly had moments to remember, but did not impress one too many. The lads also did not dominate games throughout, but the story could well be different this season.
In European sides, the U-19 boys have certainly played better opposition and can now match the best of the lot. The only task that still remains is the physicality, but it is sure to remain to that way for any U-19 team against senior sides across the world. The players know who’s to stay and who’s to leave and are investing in themselves in the right way.
From Norton de Matos to Floyd Pinto
Floyd Pinto is set to coach the side in the upcoming season and if you ask fans, they are more than happy with the kind of football Pinto is playing with his lads. With defence-first being his strength, Pinto has still managed to hit goals and give roles and responsibilities that players have happily taken up. Anwar Ali, a central defender, has taken several long-distance free-kicks and some of them have been really good.
Amarjit Singh Kiyam continues to lead the side and except the lack of a good striker, the team looks complete and rigid. Pinto has not expected the boys to play his style, but has instead ensured that the squad plays to its strength. Boris Singh has been given the freedom to foray forward more regularly and that has added a new dimension to the side. Compositely, India have done well under the man who lived under Matos’ shadow during his tenure.