The Blue Colts lost 4-8 to Japan in their last Group D match. It was at the AFC U-17 Asian Cup on Friday, June 23, 2023, at the Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand. These words have arguably never been more accurate.
Warriors are those that never give up, regardless of the outcome.
India fought their way back into the game in the second half. And gave Japan a genuine fight before falling short and losing the contest. The Blue Colts needed to win in order to have a chance of making it to the tournament’s quarterfinals. But sadly, that was not to be.
India had to replace the suspended Pramveer at centre back with Mukul Panwar. Forcing them to make one change to their starting lineup.
Japan took the lead right away and enjoyed having the ball while India played a mid-block style of football.
Japan was to be contained by the Blue Colts and confined to a small space. The only person in the centre circle was Thanglalsoun Gangte. He was attempting to hold up the ball for the counterattacks.
Korou tried to cut in and help Gangte while Lalpekhlua Ralte made a few runs down the left. Despite their hard work both on and off the ball, Japan’s skill shone through as they missed many scoring opportunities.
He sprinted on to a rebound at the edge of the area and slammed it in. Gakuto Kawamura gave Japan the lead. A few minutes later, when his attempt from outside the box hit the woodwork, he nearly doubled Japan’s advantage.
When Korou Singh received a pass from Vanlalpeka Guite inside the Japan box, he volleyed it directly at the opposing custodian for India’s lone opportunity in the opening period.
Later on, when Gaku Nawata ran through on goal and slid the ball past Sahil to increase Japan’s advantage, that lost opportunity came back to haunt India. Just a few seconds before halftime, Nawata struck a third goal to make it 3-0 in Japan’s advantage.
In the second half, India came out much more energetically and scored one goal right away from a set-piece. Guite swung in a free-kick from the left side, which Mukul Panwar touched in from above.
But in the next few minutes, the powerful Japan struck back with two goals, the first from Shuto Nagano and the second from Yumeki Yoshinaga.
The Indian Colts were 1-5 down, but they still had a chance to win the title. Their lone goal gave their counterattacks a spark they may have lacked in their previous two games.
A bit after the hour mark, Gangte dribbled to the line before cutting it back for Danny Meitei to score.
At the opposite end, Japan was given a penalty when Mukul was called for a foul inside the Indian penalty area. Sahil Poonia, the custodian for India, stood tall and dove to his right to block Ryunosuke Sato’s penalty. Immediately after the India custodian attempted a counterattack, Danny ran into the Japan box from the right. A unfortunate deflection from Japan defender Daiki Miyagawa resulted in the goal as he attempted to cross it to Gangte; the score was now 3-5 and Japan was no more at ease.
Yotaro Nakajim’s sixth goal of the game gave the team from the Far East a 6-3 lead, but they managed to claw their way back. But the Indian scorers weren’t finished yet.
Lalpekhlua Ralte scampered into the area with ten seconds remaining and cut it back for skipper Korou to put it in. Japan had a six to four goal advantage.
On the upswing were the Blue Colts. They were leading the game at the time. Japan seemed cautious. The quality gap between Japan and India was obvious to everybody, yet the former appeared concerned. The Blue Samurais’ defenders fled the pitch as India switched from a mid-press to a high-press strategy.
The addition of eight minutes of injury time gave the Blue Colts more reason for optimism. India’s heavy push held Japan back for a significant portion of the extra time, preventing them from leaving their own half.
However, Japan’s superiority once more showed in the end, as Gota Yamaguchi and Shungo Sugiora scored consecutive goals to earn Japan three points.
Japan 8 (Gakuto Kawamura 14′, Gaku Nawata 41′, 45′, Shuta Nagano 52′, Kohei Mochizuku 54′, Yotaro Nakajima 74′, Gota Yamaguchi 90+6′, Shungo Sugiura 90+7′)
India 4 (Mukul Panwar 47′, Danny Meitei 62′, Daiki Miyagawa 69′ o.g., Korou Singh 79′)
India XI: Sahil Poonia; Ricky Meetei, Surajkumar Singh, Mukul Panwar, Malemngamba Thokchom; Gurnaj Singh Grewal, Danny Meitei (Akash Tirkey 88′), Vanlalpeka Guite; Korou Singh, Lalpekhlua Ralte (Gogocha Chungkham 90+3′); Thanglalsoun Gangte (Shashwat Panwar 85′).
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