By Nilanjan Datta, AIFF Media Team
‘Ho – Ho – Ho…,” the chant started as soon the team bus moved away from the Transportation Institute Stadium in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The chant was infectious. Eventually, even the bus driver joined in.
Smiles! Relief! Joy! From the brink of sailing into history to making history!
After Komron Tursonov had converted from the spot in the 16th minute to hand Tajikistan the lead, a ruthless display by India’s Under-16s sealed the crucial win and the second and automatic qualifying spot in Group C behind table-topping Uzbekistan.
Captain Lalramzuava equalised off a direct free-kick after 24 minutes, and Uttam Rai tapped in after Daniel Lalhlimpuia had ghosted past two defenders to make it 2-1 at the interval.
After the break, Sarthak Golui headed in Raja Rawat’s free-kick before Daniel completed the rout on the stroke of full-time to leave India on nine points from their four matches and heading to the competition's latter stages the venue for which is yet to be finalised. .
Not surprisingly, the President of the All India Football Federation, Mr. Praful Patel, has already congratulated the boys and the head coach of Youth Development, Mr. Colm Toal, on the achievement.
Meanwhile, coach Thomas Joseph has attributed the victory to “team effort.
“Everyone has made a sacrifice – right from the boys to the team management. All have been away from their families for long. Hence, the satisfaction level stays higher,” he maintained.
INDIA: Supratim Bhattacharjee, Myron Mendes, Sajid Dhot, Sarthak Golui, Nabin Rabha (Suman Saha 63'); Harmanjot Singh (Allen Deory 29'), Nitin Jyal, Lalramzuava (C), Raja Rawat; Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Uttam Rai.
The squad was as follows:
Goalkeepers: Avinash Rao, Agaipal Singh, Supratim Bhattacharya.
Defenders: Myron Mendes, Maiban Jimmy Singh, Suman Shah, Sajid Dhot, Sarthak Golui, Rahul S, Nabin Rabha, Gurba Gagri.
Midfielders: Alen Deory, Harmanjot Singh, Nitin Jyal, Germanpreet Singh, K Lalramzuava, Lalrammuana, Raja Rawat, Geremsha Basumatary.
Forwards: Kamalpreet Singh, Daniel Lalhimpuia, Laldantsanga, Uttam Rai.
Coach: Thomas Joseph
Team Manager: Chalil Melay Renjith
Goalkeeping Coach: Auguiar Luis Mario
Physio: S Babu
Assistant Coach: Bitan Singh