India earn morale-boosting win over Italy ahead of U-17 World Cup
By Vishnu Prasad | Express News Service | Published: 19th May 2017 10:38 PM |
CHENNAI: India 2, Italy 0. And yes, it was a football game!
It’s not every day that India gets to face Italy in this game at any level. On Friday, the U-17 team took on what was an Azzurri U-17 team on paper in Arizo and beat them 2-0.
Strikes by Abhijit Sarkar (31 minutes) and Rahul Praveen (80) sealed the deal for the visitors. In the three years since the team was assembled with an eye on the U-17 World Cup to be held in India in a few months, this is the most eye-catching result they have produced.
The team is on a European tour after coach Luis Norton de Matos opted to take them to the continent in his first overseas trip. They will be there till July with matches against many notable teams to come, including one against Paris Saint-Germain U-17s.
The boys have been in the news for a lot of the wrong reasons, including the Nicolai Adam saga. A couple more stories like this and all that will be forgotten, says former India captain IM Vijayan.
“I’ve always maintained there is a lot of talent in our age group teams and this bunch is no different. Our biggest problem has been making sure that these kids developed into proper players at the senior level.
But this is a massive result and it bodes well for the U-17 World Cup where everyone expects us to put up a good show. If we can pull off a couple of results like this, it would be great for the game in India.”
Vijayan, part of the committee that appointed De Matos as Adam’s replacement, praised the coach. “You could see that he was a man with an ability to understand people,” he says.
“I remember me and Bhaichung (Bhutia) being particularly impressed by that. We felt that was what the kids needed, someone to understand them properly. He has improved not only the atmosphere in the dressing room, but the results as well.”
While the who’s who in the world of Indian sport, including Virender Sehwag took to social media to congratulate the boys, an air of doubt surrounds the composition of the Italian team.
There is no mention of the match on Italian FA’s website, where all recent results of the Italy U-17 team, including their U-17 Euros matches, are catalogued.
No team sheet was not released, which makes it impossible to know names of the Italian players. The AIFF press release detailing the match doesn’t clarify this either.