The Indian U-19 team reached the semi-finals of the ongoing Weifang Cup in Shandong, China in spite of losing to FC Benfica in their last group match this afternoon. The Indian colts will now take on the youth team of the Mexican club FC Chivas, who topped group A after thumping U-19 Villareal CF team by three goals to nil.

With a win and a draw, the Indian side managed to finish at the second position in group B and Thehardtackle reviews their performance in the group stage.

1. FC Shandong 2-2 India (U-19)

The young Indian boys face a tough opening encounter against the hosts FC Shandong. The Indian colts, coached by Colm Toal, showed a lot of grit and determination after they managed to hold the Chinese U-19 Academy Champions to a draw in spite of going two goals down. Holicharan Narzary, who currently plays for the Indian Arrows and is a product of TFA, showcased exactly why he is considered the future of Indian football after he scored the opener for the Indian side which led to their revival in the match. The comeback was complete after Sumit Passi scored in the second half doing full justice to the faith Toal had shown in him. This helped the blue tigers to salvage at least a point from their first group clash.

2. India (U-19) 4-3 FC Adelaide

In the second group match against the Aussie club the Indian colts picked up their first victory of the tournament. The match of two halves saw India pull off a dream comeback, winning it by 4 goals to 3, after they were initially down by one goal to three.

The enormity of the victory can be made from the fact that five of the eleven players fielded by the Adelaide side were a part of the Australian U-17 World Cup squad.

Stefan Mauk took the lead for Adelaide FC as Indian defence had no answer for his pile driver from a long range. Shortly afterwards, Jordon Kallios added the second one for the boys from down under. Sixteen year-old Goa boy Brandon Fernandes, got one back for India from 6 yards after Malswamfela was brought down in the box by the Australian defenders. The joy of the Indian side was short lived as Kallios went on to score his second and his team’s third, minutes from halftime which shifted the balance of the match back in the favour of Adelaide FC.

The half time team talk seemed to have done wonders for the moral of the blue tigers as they went on to dominate the proceedings as soon as the second half kicked off.

Narzary scored for the South Asians at the stroke of an hour and minutes later West Bengal’s Prabir Das restored the parity as the Indian team crawled their way back into the match. Rajinder Kumar proved to be the golden boy for the Indian side as his goal in injury time sealed a famous win for the U-19 team, resulting into a joyous Indian squad.

 

So far, so good

 

 

3. FC Benfica 2-0 India U-19

There were no more comebacks in store for the Indian team as Toal’s boys went down by two goals to nil against the strongest side in the tournament S.L. Benfica. The Indian colts didn’t go down meekly after conceding two goals and gave the youth team of the European giants a stiff competition, but were unable to break the backline of the Portugal side.

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SEMI-FINAL

Preview

INDIA (U-19)

v/s

FC GUADALAJARA CHIVAS

Date: 4th August, 2011

Time: 13:30 IST

Venue: Olpmpic Stadium, Shandong, China

After an impressive performance in the group stages, India has made it to the semi finals of the competition and will now take on the Mexican Side – FC Chivas – who finished at pole position in group A. The Mexican side which boasts of yielding players like Manchester United star Javier Hernandez are favourites by a long shot but after seeing the attitude of the Indian boys, it would be a huge mistake on their part if they decide to take the Indian team lightly. Indian defenders will have their task cut out against an all-attacking Mexican side especially since the defence has been the weak link for India in the group stages and has always resulted in India conceding the early goals. Meanwhile, expect Toal to go in with his tried and tested three-men midfield of Fernandes, Prabir Das and Haldar. Holicharan, Malswamfela along with Sumit Passi will form the attacking line for the Indians.

TheHardTackle’s prediction:

India (U-19) 1-3 FC Chivas

Unfortunately, not many would have given a chance to this Indian side to reach the last four before the tournament started. FC Chivas should expect a tough competition from the Indian outfit but THT predicts Chivas to come out with a comfortable win against the Indian side and cruise into the final scheduled on the 6th of August.