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US captain Josh Sargent and Chris Goslin steal show as hosts crumble

This is the beginning every host fears, being hammered in the opening match. Years of training, sacking of coaches, loads of money spent on publicity and facility upgrades, and the Indian under-17 football squad loses 0-3 to the USA.

The big-talking All India Football Federation president Praful Patel, of course, was too busy attending to the biggest happening of the day at the stadium, the arrival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was a dark evening at the opener of the FIFA U-17 World Cup at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in New Delhi on Friday (October 6).

Going by the nature of the defeat, it isn’t sure if India will be able to move up from the group league stage. The US dominated the match throughout. It was not just physical, though the visitors were definitely stronger, but it seemed at times that the Indian boys were lacking in basic skills.

India did start on a bright note and could have gone 1-0 up but Komal Thatal’s chip from close went over the bar. Thereafter India faded. The talent level of India was evident when a Josh Sargent’s shot in a one-on-one with Indian goalkeeper Dheeraj Moirangthem took the goalkeeper’s chest. Any level of goalkeeping does not allow the ball to come to the chest without being collected. It bounced off.

The first goal came from Josh Sargent in the 30th minute off penalty which some thought was a trifle harsh, though Jitender Siongh could have been a little more careful with the foul. Chris Durkin (51) and Andrew Carleton (84) completed the tally.

India did get a chance in the 83rd minute when Anwar Ali’s shot hit the woodwork, but that was a feeble try.

India’s persistence, or the lack of it, was evident from the third goal which came off a counterattack. It was Ali’s shot that came off the bar that began this and India failed to contain the US strikeback.

Indian coach De Matos slammed his team for “conceding a stupid goal.”

The Indian coach decided on a midriff-heavy 3-6-1 format, with only one striker in Abhijit Sarkar, while the US started on 4-3-3. De Matos’ crowding out strategy failed to work. It could have worked had the US not used the flanks better.

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