India put up a valiant fight before going down 0-2 against Kuwait to get off their Asian Games football campaign on a disappointing note in Guangzhou on Sunday.
Sukhwinder Singh's boys were on equal terms against their stronger rivals for most part of the match. They paid the price of conceding an early goal and letting in another via a defensive lapse in the injury time.
Striker Khaled Al Azemi scored both the goals -- in the sixth and 91st minutes -- for Kuwait at the Huadu Stadium.
India will now have to beat either defending champions Qatar on Tuesday or Singapore on Thursday to have any chance of remaining in contention for a berth in the knock-out round.
The top two teams from each of four groups and the four best third-placed teams will qualify for the Round of 16.
India were on the backfoot as early as the sixth minute with Al Azemi finding the target even as the Indians were trying to settle down. Al Azemi found the target from an opportunistic shot after a Kuwaiti free-kick from outside the box deflected from an Indian defender.
Not to be alarmed by the deficit, the Indian Under-23 side did not allow their rivals to dictate terms.
In the whole match, India had five shots on goal as against six by the Kuwaitis. The Indians were awarded more corners -- five -- as against one by Kuwait.
India dominated the second half but wasted at least three chances to equalise. They conceded the second goal in injury time with the back pass from an Indian defender to goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimany, who started instead of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, landing on Kuwaiti striker Al Azemi.
Al Azemi slotted the ball and D Ravanan's desperate attempt to clear it was unsuccessful.
Despite the loss, Sukhwinder was happy with the performance of his boys and said his side still has the chance to make it to the knock-out round.
"It was an evenly contested match. Kuwait converted two from the three chances they got. We had at least three chances to equalise in the second half. So overall, I am happy with the performance of the boys," he said.
"The boys played a good game. There were one or two Kuwaiti boys who are skillful and speedier than my boys. So we are looking to play our best against Qatar and Singapore. We still have chance to qualify for next round. There are no injury concerns in today's match also," he added.
Except for Kattimani manning the goal, Sukhwinder began with the team that lost 1-3 to Vietnam in Cuttack last month in the only friendly match in the run-up to the Asian Games.
The Asian Games will officially open on November 12 but the football competition kicks off from Sunday and will conclude on November 25.