India U-20 football team coach Floyd Pinto said his side's win over six-time world U-20 champions Argentina in the COTIF Cup 2018 encounter on Sunday will only help boost the image of Indian football.
Pinto's side created history as they defeated an Argentine side, coached by former World Cupper Lionel Scaloni, 2-1 in Spain.
The engineer-turned football tactician, who is among the youngest in the country to hold the Asian Football Confederation's A license, said the feeling was "unbelievable" and that he was filled with pride after the historic win.
"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," Pinto told All India Football Federation (AIFF) after the win.
He added: "It's unbelievable! I am a very proud Indian today. This win is a testament to the efforts and belief of the AIFF in moving forward towards developing the youth of the country."
India step up and deliver on the big day
Pinto's boys were beaten by Murcia and Mauritania in their previous matches of the tournament. However, they had clinched an important draw against current U-20 World Cup runners-up Venezuela in the lead up to the big tie against Argentina.
An early goal (4th minute) through a header from Deepak Tangri gave the much-needed boost for the India U-20 team. Argentina goalkeeper was at fault as he struggled to handle a straightforward header from Tangri.
The Asian side kept pressing forward and created quite a few chances with Suresh Singh and Boris Singh feeding forward Aniket Jadhav. However, India headed to the break at 1-0 as they lacked the decisive finishing skills in the first half.
India suffered a huge blow as they were reduced to 10 men after forward Jadhav was red-carded in the 54th minute.
Pinto's team though didn't let their intensity drop as they kept venturing into the attacking third. Their persistence was rewarded when Anwar Ali struck a brilliant free-kick from outside the Argentine box in the 68th minute.
Ali lifted the lifted the ball over the Argentine wall and found the back of the net. The ball nestled into the goal after hitting the woodwork as the opposition shot-stopper had no chances of even getting a finger-tip to it.
Argentina pulled one back in the 72nd minute but India held on to their nerves to preserve the lead and clinch a memorable win.
Pinto lauds U-16 team's win over Iraq, Anwar Ali's free-kick
Coach Pinto added that India was focussed despite taking the 2-0 lead as they wanted to put behind the previous results and end the tournament on a high.
"The bench was understandably ecstatic yet calm as there was a lot of football yet to be played. Deepak Tangri's goal was one of a sheer determination while Anwar Ali's free-kick was of the highest order," Pinto said.
"We wanted to put in a performance that would make people forget about our previous game against Venezuela U-20 and the boys managed to do that."
Pinto also expressed delight at U-16 India team's win over Asian champions Iraq on Sunday. The teenagers had stunned the higher-ranked side 1-0 at WAFF U-16 Championship in Amman, Jordan hours before the U-20 side clinched glory in Spain.
"I also need to highlight the U-16 boys winning against current U-16 Asian Champions Iraq on the same day. Both the victories are proof that this bunch of young U-16 and U-20 players are undergoing a systematic planning and exposure with the right kind of matches which is required for their continuous development."