India's Head Coach Luis Norton de Matos hugs Rahim Ali after loosing their match against Colombia during the FIFA U-17 World Cup in New Delhi, India, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
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New Delhi: On a night when the world saw India score their first ever FIFA World Cup goal, unfortunately turned out to be the same one, that saw their hopes in World Cup vaporize as they narrowly lost 2-1 to a Colombian side.
In a crucial Group-A encounter, the hosts put up unarguably the best attacking performance in the history of Indian football, and would've surely made the front pages the next day, if not for a Colombian genius, Juan Carlos Penaloza.
The game had been scripted as a battle between Colombian strength and India's pace and resistance and it turned out to be just about the same. Both the sides came in with expected changes, but tactically it was India who commanded the show from the beginning. Moving from 4-1-4-1 to a more stable 4-2-3-1 was the first of many unexpected changes that coach Luis Norton de Matos introduced.
Earlier on Sunday, he had mentioned of the South American side, as a tough opposition, having all the necessary elements to hurt the Indian side.
"We have to be on toes all throughout and have to focus on the task at hand. They will give us a tough physical fight but we are ready for it, " said the Portuguese.
Colombia stuck with their 3-5-2 formation against an Indian side that were missing star names such as Komal Thatal, Aniket Jadhav, Nondamba Naorem from the starting lineup. This however was part of Matos' plan who stressed on pressing the Colombian side in a more refined attacking approach than the last game.
First half saw Colombia command the possession, but the first real chance was of the game came from Abhijit Sarkar's attempt, 8 yards from goal that was denied firmly by Mier. On the brink of half time, the hosts came agonizingly close to scoring through a Rahul Praveen volley, that struck the crossbar.
The Colombian attack on the other side had been put to rest by a resilient Indian defense that had been upgraded with the return of Boris Singh at the right wing.
The second half possibly was more even as Colombia began with a more intent to score or at least create a bit of a chance, which was exactly what it was. In the 49th minute, Juan Penaloza pounced onto the ball just outside the box down the right hand side and bulged in a curler from out of nowhere.
It was then that the substitution strategy of Matos was put in as with Aniket Jadhav and Nongdamba Naorem being introduced in as the formation now shifted to 3-5-2. The Indians were menacing with all out attacks now, even the left back, Anwar Ali was hitting the target from just outside the box. The Colombians weren't able to find any space as they kept on hitting from 25-30 yards out.
Finally, in the 82nd minute, the big moment of Indian football was marked as the 16-year-old Jeakson Singh Thaunaojam rose above the Colombian defence and converted a Sanjeev Singh's corner into India's first FIFA World Cup goal.
The celebrations had just begun in India, when Penaloza converted a vicious long ball into the most tragic goal in the World Cup so far.
An evening that promised to be so much had ended with a defeat but surely a new attacking prowess, a new strategic master class, a new set of exuberant youth; a new Indian football team had been reborn.