Final Position – Runners-Up
Group League: Lost to Pakistan (1-0), Defeated Maldives (5-0)
Semi-Final: Defeated Nepal (1-1, 4-2 in tie-breaker)
Final: Lost to Pakistan (2-1)
U16 SAFF Cup Final: India U16 v Pakistan U16: The Match Report
As expected, Pakistan started the match on stronger note as Supratim Bhattacharya was forced to make a sharp save off Ashfaq Ali within first three minutes. On 25th minute Zeeshan made amends for his misses in semi-final as he put Pakistan ahead. Indian boys showed the spirit that saw then pip Nepal in the semis as Daniel Lalhlimpuia scored the equalizer just before the half time whistle went off.
Five minutes into second half Pakistan again took the lead through the impressive Mansoor Khan, who had scored in the group game also. After going down 2-1 India tried desperately to once again claw back into the game. Daniel was guilty of missing a golden chance around the hour mark when he missed the target from a few yards out. Pakistan defended stubbornly as India ran out of ideas to score a goal.
India created many chances in second half but was led down by poor finishing from its strikers. Myron Mendes and Daniel both came close to making it 2-2 but their efforts missed the target by whiskers. Pakistan defender brilliantly with 7-8 players around the box and took their chances with clinical perfection. Pakistan players broke into celebrations as the final whistle blew as they had deservedly captured the first ever U16 SAFF Cup in brilliant style.
Top-5 India U16 Performers:
Supratim Bhattacharya – The Indian goalkeeper was almost unbeatable against Nepal in semi-final as he made a number of super saves during regulation time before saving two penalties in tie-breaker. He made some important saves in final also.
Myron Mendes – Full back Myron was a livewire in India’s matches moving up and down the flanks with ease. Myron’s attacking instincts are well honed but he needs to be more careful about his defensive duties.
Raja Rawat – Rawat was arguably the most impressive player for India in SAFF Cup. The winger scored against Maldives and also assisted fellow strikers. He fits the mold of a modern winger perfectly as he often cuts back from the wings. The Uttarakhand lad is a good crosser too.
Laldanta Sanga – Ladanta scored two goals against Maldives and also came close to scoring against Pakistan. He worked hard upfront but needs to improve his finishing.
Daniel Lalhlimpuia – Daniel’s off the ball movement was brilliant in each of the games as he often ended up in goal scoring positions. Sadly, he failed to back his positioning up with clinical finishing. No Indian player missed as many golden chances to score as he did. However, he is still very young and he can only improve from here.
In under-age levels like U16, players getting experience is much, much more important than winning titles. India reaching final after defeating the hosts was in itself a notable feat. The U16 team showed good skills in patches but was let down due to absence of a proper finisher upfront. Star striker Uttam Rai was heavily missed, if he was present in the squad India would have surely ended up with more goals.
However, India is a giant in SAFF tournaments and it will not be unfair to expect better performance from the boys some of whom are being trained in high facility IMG camp in USA. India’s overall performance in SAFF Cup has shown that these boys still need to improve a lot. Thankfully they have time on their side !