U-17 World Cup: India beats US 8-0

It took three corners in the first 15 minutes for India’s World Cup dreams to go up in smoke. USA scored from two of those set-piece situations and India undone. It then becomes an exercise in damage limitation. There will be tougher tests for the US, but coach Natalia Astrain’s claim of wanting to make history seems to be on track.

They were bigger in size – Charlotte Kohler jumped left centre-back Purnima Kumari for the second goal and Ella Emri for the sixth, both from corners – and better technically and tactically. This allowed them to circulate the ball better. At the top of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), union ministers Odisha chief Naveen Patnaik and FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura, US, showed that you can’t handle all that with an intense eight-month training camp. You cannot compensate for the lack of a football culture, because almost 270 training sessions bring youth competitions to a standstill with Covid-19 as the reason. If you could, you would break the pole vault world record with a bamboo shaft.

Also read | India vs USA FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022 Football Highlights: USA heavyweights beat IND in one-sided 8-0 win

“We have defended corners very well for a long time, but then we had not yet played against a team of this level. The US should go very far in this tournament,” said India’s head coach Thomas Dennerby, whose 8-0 loss was the worst in a long and storied career. “But we can do better and I hope we can show that in the next two games. I think the girls were nervous; we didn’t even try to pass the ball to each other. When we did it was a weak pass and from then on it was 3-0.”

This American team is used to winning a lot. They defeated Granada 20-0 with 10 players scoring; Puerto Rico 13-0, Costa Rica 5-0 and Curaçao 11-0 en route to winning this year’s CONCACAF Championship, earning them a ticket to India. Melina Remimbas was among the scorers in that competition, scoring in all four knockout matches. On Tuesday, she opened the score on a corner volley after being unmarked in the six-yard box. The ninth minute and the USA led and nothing happened that India’s head coach Thomas Dennerby had hoped for – a good start, the USA nervous after a sudden display of fireworks and the home crowd stoked by the deejay to make a lot of noise .

After a second minute effort, when Nitu found Linda Kajol D’Souza but India’s lone forward couldn’t get her legs together in a one-on-one situation, the home side were forced into desperate defence. The low block in a 4-1-4-1 formation may have been part of the plan, but they also used the speed of Neha and Anita Kumari to play the ball behind the defence.

In football, what happens on one side of the pitch usually affects the other and because India couldn’t move forward, they were inundated with white shirts. The inability to clear their lines led to player-of-the-match Onyeka Paloma Gamero to make it 3-0. Remimbas’ left foot volley from distance made it 4-0, then Gisele Thomson scored with a solo effort after coming in from the right.

By this time, Astrain had begun to clap politely after a goal and, often alone in the technical room, Dennerby had taken a seat on the bench. The miserable night ended with a penalty for a foul by Kajal; Taylor Suarez converts. Mia Bhuta completed the count with a nice volley, which meant that the evening would not end without a player of Indian descent on the scoresheet.

“It’s in the DNA of American female football players not to get carried away,” Astrain says. “If you come to the recovery session tomorrow, you will see that the girls don’t want to stop.” For Dennerby, it’s about “telling the team the sun will shine tomorrow and a sleepless night tonight won’t help you perform better.”

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