Passion! Determination! Attitude! It was a test aimed to build the Team for the future testing cohesion and chemistry. And perhaps it gave us a glimpse of the Indian National Team’s future potential.
A disciplined and organized India went down fighting 0-3 to ‘Giants of Asia’ Iran in the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Preliminary Joint Qualification on a windy Tuesday night at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru, Karnataka.
A 29th minute goal by the ‘Iranian Messi’, Sardar Azmoun and two early goals in the second half, within a span of five minutes earned three points for travelling contingent.
However, ranked 115 places below Iran in the FIFA Rankings, India seldom showed signs of fear and their spirits were not deterred.
Shuffling his pack, Coach Stephen Constantine gave debut to Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, making him the 498th Indian to don the Blue jersey. With Jeje playing off Robin Singh upfront, and Sunil Chhetri playing just behind the two, India jotted down some quick moves around Iran’s 18 yard box.
Sunil Chhetri’s shot after robbing his Iranian marker off possession came close to opening the goal scoring tally for India in the early minutes of the match.
Next, a Eugeneson Lyngdoh run on the right asphalt, after evading his marker was thwarted away by the Iranian defence for a corner kick.
Rowlin Borges, who introduced for an injured Dhanpal Ganesh in the 13th minute, disrupted Iranian attacks and launched his own in the 21stminute but it went abegging.
Although the Indians trailed by a goal after the 29th minute, the determination and will power was there for all to see. Robin Singh’s trailblazing run to dispossess opponent near the Indian corner flag, after covering almost 30 yards was just one example.
This determination and fighting spirit to press and win the ball eventually led India to earn a free-kick around the Iranian 18 yard box in the 33rd minute. Sunil Chhetri’s curler was although headed by Sandesh Jhingan, failed to breach the Iranian citadel.
At halftime, Iran led courtesy of a Sardar Azmoun goal.
Changing over, and Iran scored two quick-fire goals early in the second half. An Andranik Teymourian goal in the 46th minute was followed by Mehid Taremi’s in the 49th.
An electric Kanteerava Stadium was filled with chants of ‘India India’. And prior to the kick-off a large banner dubbing Sunil Chhetri as a light to follow in Indian Football was unveiled.
With the Indian fans continuing to back the blue, the Indian Team started to jot down attacks. Sunil Chhetri’s shot in the 57th minute flew inches over the Iranian crossbar.
Coach Constantine introduced Jackichand Singh for Eugeneson Lyngdoh in the 62nd minute to pile up the pressure on Iran.
‘Fighting spirit’, was perhaps the Indian word of the day. And Sandesh Jhingan epitomized it perfectly in the 63rd minute. An Iranian attack was thwarted away by lanky defender, who went diving headfirst into the shot, irrespective of the fear of injury.
Six minutes later, a Sunil Chhetri flick-on found Jeje with the Iranian goalkeeper at his mercy. However, Jeje was dispossessed by a heroic tackle by the Iranian defence line, only to earn a corner kick.
With time running out the Indian contingent attacked in hordes, but failed to breach the Iranian citadel.
INDIA 0-3 (0-1) Iran
Goals: 0-1 Sardar Azmoun (28′), 0-2 Andranik Teymourian (46′), 0-3 Mehdi Taremi (49′)
INDIA: 23-Gurpreet Singh Sandhu – 20-Pritam Kotal, 4-Arnab Mondal, 5-Sandesh Jhingan, 21-Narayan Das – 14-Pronoy Halder, 7-Eugeneson Lyngdoh (62′ 10-Jackichand Singh), 21-Dhanapal Ganesh (13′ 22-Rowlin Borges) – 12-Jeje Lalpekhlua (80′ 8-Cavin Lobo), 11-Sunil Chhetri [C], 9-Robin Singh
Substitutes: 1-Subrata Pal, 16-Arindam Bhattacharya, 2-L. Dhanachandra Singh, 3-Aiborlang Khongjee, 6-Romeo Fernandes, 13-Rino Anto, 15-Francis Fernandes, 19-C.K. Vineeth
IRAN: 1-Alireza Haghighi – 2-Khosro Heydari (19-K. Rezaei), 3-Ehsan Haji Safi, 4-Jalal Hosseini, 9-Omid Ebrahimi (62′ 8-Morteza Pouraliganji), 10-Vahid Amiri, 14- Andranik Teymourian (C), 15-Pejman Montazeri, 17-Mehdi Taremi (62′ 18-Saeid Ezzatollahi), 20-Sardar Azmoun, 21-Ashkan Dejagah
Substitute: 12-Alireza Beiranvand, 22-Mohammad Reza Akhbari, 5-Hossein Kanaani, 6-Mehdi Torabi, 7-Omid Alishah, 11-Vouria Ghafouri, 13-Milad Mohammadi, 16-Ali Karimi, 23-Ramin Rezaian
Referee: Ammar Aljeneibi (United Arab Emirates)
Assistant Referee 1: Ahmed Alrashad (United Arab Emirates)
Assistant Referee 2: Zayed Kamal (United Arab Emirates)
Fourth Official: Nivon Robesh Gamini (Sri Lanka)
(Report & Photo courtesy AIFF Media)