India U-16 side showed heart, purpose and skill but were second best to an Iran side that did not once flinch in unfamiliar conditions as they went down fighting 0-3.
Head Coach Nicolai Adam took a rather conservative approach which meant that two wide midfielders with defensive responsibilities were selected in place of two strikers in Aman Chetri and Aniket Jadhav who had both impressed in the India’s first two games. The move did pay dividends as India saw off the initial part of the game without giving Iran much to cheer about.
The tactic worked well till the 23rd minute when M.Ghaderi got in between India’s central defenders to get on the end of the perfect through ball and finished the move off in some style. The move was exemplary of the quality that the Iranians possessed. This was the first occasion in the championships that India conceded a goal in the first half hour.
India showed resilience and perseverance in defense and Dheeraj Singh’s save from close range, proved that the team refused to bow out despite conceding early.
In a move that would go on to instill confidence in the side and the assembled 5892 spectators at the Fatorda Stadium, Adam brought on Aniket Jadhav in the second half, taking off defender M.Rakip.The addition of the spritely striker added zeal to the India attack but it wasn't to last for long. Adam’s aforementioned move to bring on Aniket meant Boris, who was already on a yellow card, had to be slotted at right-back against Iran’s mercurial winger M.Ghaderi, whose pace troubled India’s defense all evening.
The pendulum swung towards Iran when Boris Thangjam received his second yellow card and the subsequent marching orders early in the second half.
The youngsters could not cope with a man down, and Iran made good use of their advantage in numbers, as they won a penalty on a counter attacking move and subsequently doubled their lead.
India looked to keep up the fight but Iran had other ideas as they scored from yet another penalty in stoppage time. The final whistle left the Indian camp and the assembled supporters dejected as the home side crashed out of the competition.
The grit and determination showed by the side during the group stages even though they failed to make it through will only bear fruit if they can soldier on, for the upcoming World Cup.