India's first international match in 492 days ended in a 1-1 draw against Oman in a friendly tie on Thursday in Dubai.
After trailing by a goal in the first half, Manvir Singh equalised for the Blues Tigers in the 55th minute of the match and helped them secure a crucial draw against a side who are 23 places above India.
Former India international goalkeeper Henry Menezes was elated to watch the performance of the young Indian players who managed to hold a very strong Oman side in the absence of captain Sunil Chhetri.
What did Menezes say?
"Without Sunil Chhetri getting this result is a very big thing. This shows teamwork can be more effective than individual quality. It is the teamwork that counts," Menezes told Goal.
He also credited the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) for organising the Indian Super League (ISL) season seven efficiently amidst the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic which according to Menezes helped in keeping the Indian players in good shape for the internationals.
Credit to a long ISL amidst a pandemic
"It is amazing to see that India has shown readiness to play a game against a higher-ranked team. Readiness is one part of it. The entire credit goes to ISL for arranging the league in a bio-bubble. It was the longest going event in COVID times in India. There are many factors in this draw. It is not a question of whether India won but it is a question of being ready," said Menezes.
10 players, namely Ashutosh Mehta, Chinglensana Singh, Bipin Singh, Ishan Pandita, Suresh Wangjam, Jeakson Singh, Akash Mishra, Lalengmawia, Mashoor Shereef and Mohamed Yasir, were handed their international debuts by coach Igor Stimac and the deputy chairman of AIFF's Technical committee was pleased to see the emergence of so many new players in the international arena.
"Oman got more chances but that is part of the game. You get chances but you have to score them too. The best thing is the emergence of so many new players in the national side. 10 players made their debut it is a very positive sign for India," opined Menezes.
Can India repeat the performance against UAE?
The former Mahindra United custodian is confident that the Indian side will be able to give a good account of themselves against UAE in their second friendly game which is on Match 29.
"UAE are a strong team but we are also in form. India played against UAE in the Asian Cup and we drew against them. It is going to be a test for us with all the new faces but it is a challenge that India can take and make a mark."