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India U20

Argentina & Iraq slayed in an incredible day for Indian football!

08:30 GMT+4 06/08/2018
India U20
India U16 team got the better of the Asian U16 champs while Argentina's U20 team were edged out by the India U20 team....

Disbelief would have been writ large on the faces of many as the country woke up to a couple of stunning results from the junior national teams. For the India U16 team had stunned Iraq U16 1-0 in the WAFF Boys' Championship in Jordan while the India U20 team defeated Argentina U20 2-1 in the COTIF Cup in Spain

While the result in Jordan has an uplifting feel about it, the one from Spain is nothing but incredulous. The Blue colts had not just beaten a strong team but one of the strongest. In footballing terms, Argentina are miles above India which is why the U20 team's feat is absolutely terrific. 

Having gone toe-to-toe with one of the strongest teams in world football, a team which is the most successful in U20 World Cups, and to have come out with a win is nothing short of phenomenal and projects a positive outlook for the game as a whole in the country. 

Floyd Pinto's team deserve every credit for the result against a team coached by Lionel Scaloni and Pablo Aimar - two stars of the game in the playing career. What's more? Ardent followers of the game will know that Scaloni and Aimar are also in charge of the Argentina senior team after Jorge Sampaoli was let go after the 2018 World Cup. 

The achievement by the U20 team just assumes greater and greater significance, doesn't it? 

The Argentina U20 team had several up and coming stars like Matias Palacios and Facundo Colidio and would have been disappointed to have been beaten by India, despite having qualified for the semifinals of the COTIF Cup. 

India were eliminated but Floyd Pinto's men would be overjoyed to have gone out in a blaze of glory with the prized scalp of Argentina. Though India got off to a couple of disappointing results in the tournament, falling to defeats against Murcia U20s and Mauritania U20s, a draw against Venezuela (an extremely creditable result) set the ball rolling for the Argentina game.  

Interestingly, India's goals were the first Argentina conceded in the COTIF Cup. Though the Argentinean goalkeeper Leonardo Diaz was at fault for Deepak Tangri's opener, there was nothing he could do about Anwar Ali's stunning freekick.

The Indian defence was very well drilled, oozing confidence at times during Argentina's forays forward. Even Argentina's goal came after custodian Prabsukhan Gill mis-judged the flight of a shot from Alan Marinelli. 

All this despite playing the final 26 minutes of the game with just 10-men, having seen Aniket Jadhav sent off in the 54th minute. It was nothing short of an 'incredulous' performance, no two ways about it. 

Bibiano Fernandes' boys also deserve credit for what they did in WAFF Boys' Championship late on Sunday. Not only did they manage to edge the Asian champions at this level, but they dominated the game from start to finish. 

Against physically superior opponents, the team displayed excellent fitness and technical ability to create chances and defend well. If not for the brilliance of the Iraqi goalkeeper, India could have won the game by a bigger margin. 

However, one has to note that several of the Iraqi players were detained in a case of age-fudging as they left for this tournament. 

But a fighting spirit and self-belief was evident in the way India pushed till the very end and managed to come away with a win. There has been a marked improvement in the standards of the team for they had struggled against the same opponents last year and were lucky to come away with a draw. 

Since then, the team has performed really well in tournaments in Serbia, Hong Kong, Spain etc. 

While the fans all over the country savour this historic day, the credit should also go the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) along with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) for their staunch support towards the U20 and U16 team in the form of organising exposure trips and training camps. 

Many of the critics of the strategy the federation has for the youth teams will now have to take a backseat. It was not a 'B' team or a 'C' team that India defeated but first teams of Iraq and Argentina. They would not have got the skills and mental fortitude for doing the same had it not been for the exposure they have been receiving.