India stun Argentina in U-20 COTIF Cup football tourney
India notched up one of its most memorable football triumphs when the country's under-20 team stunned traditional giants Argentina 2-1 despite being reduced to 10 men in a pulsating contest at the COTIF Cup in Valencia, Spain, on Sunday.
Deepak Tangri (4th minute) and Anwar Ali (68') scored for the winners as the Floyd Pinto-coached side scripted a historic result against the six-time U-20 world champions, coached by 2006 World Cupper Lionel Scaloni and former midfield star Pablo Aimar.
It was a massive boost for Pinto's side, which had lost 0-2 to Murcia before going down 0-3 to Mauritania. They were held to a goalless draw by Venezuela in their previous match in the tournament.
"This victory will definitely earn Indian Football more respect in the world of football. It opens up a window of opportunity to test ourselves against the best in the World on a regular basis," Pinto said after the match.
"It's unbelievable! I am a very proud Indian today. This win is a testament to the efforts and belief of the All India Football Federation in moving forward towards developing the youth of the country.
"We have a renewed belief that with the right support & exposure we are capable to compete with the best teams in the world," he added.
Interestingly, this win comes weeks after national coach Stephen Constantine criticised the Indian team's performance at the U-17 World Cup, describing it mediocre and the hype surrounding as unjustified.
The Indian team was also not allowed to participate in the Asian Games after being denied clearance by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
India U-16s stun Iraq 1-0 in WAFF Boys' Championship
An injury-time goal by Buevenesh earned India U-16 team a stunning 1-0 victory over current Asian U-16 Champions Iraq in the WAFF U-16 Championship in Amman, Jordan.
India produced a dominating performance as Buevenesh headed in the match-winner in the dying minutes to provide the perfect finish to a sublime build-up.
This is the first-ever victory for any Indian football team against Iraq in any format and among all age-groups.
"I would like to dedicate this win to all my fellow Indian coaches who train the boys before they join us at the AIFF Academy and eventually the National Team," India U-16 head coach Bibiano Fernandes said.
"We need to start believing in ourselves. The team thanks the fans and well-wishers of Indian Football who have always stood by us."
Bibiano smiled when reminded about this being the first-ever Indian victory against Iraq.
"Whether it's a final or just a friendly match, when you score a winner in the dying minutes of a match, it's always special," he said.
Bhuvenesh's header triggered euphoric celebrations as the entire bench rushed onto the field to congratulate each other.
"Even though there have been some changes in the Iraqi side team from the side we played at the AFC Qualifiers in Nepal, it's always difficult to play them because of physicality," Bibiano said.
"However, the performance in the previous matches kept us all confident and I knew my boys would give everything to win this match."
The previous time the two teams had met in the AFC U-16 Qualifiers in Nepal, the match had ended in a goaless draw.
Reflecting on India's dominance in the match, Bibiano said: "I knew we were getting close to scoring. I just had to tell the boys not to give up till the end and to stick to the plan till the final whistle. It eventually paid dividends."
He even admitted that he keeps reminding his wards about India's goal against U-16 scored in the previous match, the first goal for India against Japan in 36 years.
"I keep reminding them about the goal and that this is just a process to learn and improve and to be humble after every step," he said.
"We have the AFC U-16 Championship at the back of our minds. It's fast approaching and I pray the boys stay away from injuries."