VALENCIA: In a headline-grabbing feat, India's U-20 team defeated the Argentina U-20 team in the COTIF Cup 2-1 in Valencia on Sunday. The match was India's fourth of the tournament and their first victory.
While Argentina had understandably played their reserves after already qualifying for the semifinals, it is still an achievement to be celebrated, for the line-up India defeated contained players from some high-profile clubs.
It was managed by former Argentina star Lionel Scaloni and had Pablo Aimar travelling with them as technical director. The duo will reportedly be taking charge of the senior side for upcoming friendlies as Argentina still look for a permanent coach following the post-World Cup removal of Jorge Sampaoli. The result was also acknowledged by the Argentina FA, who featured a match report on their website.
Scaloni had rested the majority of his first team with only one player from the starting XI having taken to the field in the three matches that Argentina played before.
Nevertheless, Facundo Colidio trains with Italian giants Inter Milan, while Fausto Vera plays for Argentinos, the club that gave Diego Maradona his debut.
There are also players from Estudiantes and Rosario. One of the starters, 16-year-old Matias Palacios, is a heavily-touted talent having been fast-tracked to the U-20 team after stellar performances for the U-15s.
Also to India's credit is the fact that they got the result after being down to 10 men, Aniket Jadhav getting a second-half red card. Indian Arrows' Deepak Tangri scored a fourth-minute opener to give India the lead, heavily assisted by a fumble from Argentina keeper Leonardo Diaz.
Despite Jadhav's red, India increased their lead in the 68th minute through a well-taken free-kick from Anwar Ali.
Argentina hit back just four minutes later through Alan Marinelli. Despite being at a numerical disadvantage, India held on for the win.
While this is India's first win of the tournament, they do have another impressive result to showcase, having held Venezuela U-20 to a 0-0 draw in their previous game. They lost to Murcia U-20 2-0 in their first game and then went down to Mauritania U-20 in the next, conceding three without reply.
“This victory will definitely earn Indian football more respect,” the team's coach Floyd Pinto said. “It opens up a window of opportunity to test ourselves against the best in the world on a regular basis.”
U-16 boys beat Iraq
The result was not India's only eyeball-grabbing result of the day, with the U-16 team downing Asian champions Iraq 1-0 at the WAFF U-16 Championship in Amman. That victory came on the back of a couple of other impressive results for the colts, beating hosts Jordan 4-0 in the opener and holding their own against Japan, losing narrowly in the end by two goals to one.