India U-17 coach Luis Norton de Matos expressed mixed feelings on Friday, October 6 as the colts suffered a 3-0 defeat in their Group A opener against USA in New Delhi. The Portuguese tactician said he was happy with the effort his boys put on the field, but not with the end result.
Watched by a crowd of more than 40,000 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, a bunch of 11 Indian boys, led by Amarjit Singh Kiyam, created history on Friday as they became India's first representatives at a FIFA World Cup of any age category.
Not just their flashy hairstyles, but the boys' effort during the momentous occasion drew praise from the crowd. Led by goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh, the Indian backline exceeded expectations as they fended off quite a few threats from the opposition in the first-half.
However, USA captain Josh Sargent broke the deadlock through a penalty in the 30th minute, much to the disappointment of De Matos, who was visibly animated at the sidelines.
USA headed into the break with a 1-0 lead and started the second half by putting pressure on the hosts straightaway. The intent was rewarded when defender Chris Dunkin doubled the lead in the 53rd minute.
De Matos rues agonising miss
India were pushed back, but the boys showed willingness to fight. Midfielder Komal Thatal, who was mighty impressive, came close to scoring a goal, but his lob went over the bar.
The hosts' best chance came in the 83rd minute when Anwar Ali met a cross from Thatal before slamming one straight into the woodwork. India's spirits were crushed when US scored their third on the counter right after the agonising miss.
"I am satisfied with the collective performance of the boys but definitely I am not happy with the result. There is a big gap between our team and others in our group. We conceded a stupid goal in the first half," De Matos said during the post-match press conference on Friday.
He added: "We had two possibilities in the second half, one through Komal Thatal and second through Anwar Ali. It was very important for us to score a goal during this phase of the game. Had Ali's shot gone in, things could have been different in the last few minutes of the game.
"However, we conceded the third goal right after the miss and it was a cruel punishment for us. Even if we were the second best, we would have liked to see us go for the draw."
USA coach lauds goalkeeper Dheeraj
On the other hand, USA coach, John Hackworth, heaped praise on the debutants, highlighting the efforts of Dheeraj, who made sure the final scoreline was not a disheartening one for the boys.
"I thought India played really well, I'm very impressed with the team. Indian fans were amazing too and this was one of the best atmospheres I've ever seen at a FIFA U-17 World Cup," Hackworth said.
"India made it hard on us, especially in the beginning. We didn't play great, but full credit to them. They were organised and there was no space to play through.
"Both their centre-backs played well and so did the goalkeeper. He made several saves that kept India in the game."