Japan 8 (Gakuto Kawamura 14', Gaku Nawata 41', 45', Shuta Nagano 52', Kohei Mochizuku 54', Yotaro Nakajima 74', Gota Yamaguchi 90+6', Shungo Sugiura 90+7')
India 4 (Mukul Panwar 47', Danny Meitei 62', Daiki Miyagawa 69' o.g., Korou Singh 79')
AIFF Media Team
BANGKOK, THAILAND: Warriors are not the ones who always win, but the ones who always fight.
These set of words could probably never have been any truer than in the 4-8 loss that the Blue Colts suffered at the hands of Japan in their last Group D match of the AFC U-17 Asian Cup at the Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand, on Friday, June 23, 2023.
In a game of two halves, India clawed back into the match in the second half and gave Japan a real run for their money, before losing the match at the end. The Blue Colts came into the encounter needing to win, in order to stand a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals of the tournament, but alas, that could not be.
India were forced to make one change to their starting XI, as Mukul Panwar slotted in at centre-back in place of the suspended Pramveer.
Japan were dominant from the very start, enjoying possession, while India played a mid-block game.
The Blue Colts looked to contain Japan and funnel them into a narrow area. Thanglalsoun Gangte was the only one in the centre circle, looking to hold up the ball for the counter-attacks.
Lalpekhlua Ralte had a couple of runs down the left, while Korou looked to cut in and give support to Gangte. However, for all their intense runs both on and off the ball, Japan’s quality showed when they came close to scoring time and again.
Gakuto Kawamura opened the scoring for Japan when he ran on to a rebound at the edge of the area and smashed it in. He came close to doubling the lead for Japan a few minutes later, when his shot from outside the box came off the woodwork.
India's only chance in the first half came when Vanlalpeka Guite chipped a ball through to Korou Singh inside the Japan box, as the latter smashed it on the volley straight at the opposition goalkeeper.
That missed opportunity came back to haunt India later on as Gaku Nawata went through on goal and slipped it past Sahil to double Japan’s lead. Nawata added a third just seconds before the half-time whistle, to make it 3-0 in Japan's favour.
India came out with a lot more vigour in the second half, and immediately clawed one goal back from a set-piece. A free-kick from the left flank was swung in by Guite, as an airborne Mukul Panwar tapped it in.
The mighty Japan, however, responded with two goals in the next couple of minutes, the first scored by Shuto Nagano, and the second by Yumeki Yoshinaga.
Despite being 1-5 down, the Indian Colts were not done with this championship. Their one goal had pumped life into their counter-attacks, a life that had perhaps been missing in their last two matches.
A little over the hour mark, Gangte sprung forward on the left, proceeded to the line and cut it back for Danny Meitei to tap it in.
At the other end, a foul by Mukul inside the Indian penalty area resulted in a penalty being awarded to Japan. India keeper Sahil Poonia, however, stood tall and dived to his right to save the penalty by Ryunosuke Sato. The India keeper immediately launched a counter, that resulted in Danny sprinting into the Japan box from the right. As he attempted to cross it to Gangte, a stray deflection off Japan defender Daiki Miyagawa went in; it was 3-5; it was no more comfortable for Japan.
The side from the far East, however, found their way back again, when Yotaro Nakajim scored their sixth goal of the night, putting them 6-3 ahead. The Indian scorers, however, were not done yet.
With 10 minutes left, Lalpekhlua Ralte scampered into the box and cut it back for captain Korou to tap it in. Japan were leading six goals to four.
The Blue Colts were on the rise. They had the momentum in the game. Japan looked wary. Though the difference in quality between Japan and India was there for all to see, the former looked worried. India had moved from a mid-press to a high-press game, and that had the Blue Samurais' defenders running for the hills.
Eight minutes of injury time were added, giving further hope to the Blue Colts. For a good part of the injury time, Japan were pegged back by India's high press, unable to get out of their own half.
However, Japan’s quality shone through for them in the end again, as Gota Yamaguchi and Shungo Sugiora netted back-to-back goals to secure the three points for Japan.
India XI: Sahil Poonia; Ricky Meetei, Surajkumar Singh, Mukul Panwar, Malemngamba Thokchom; Gurnaj Singh Grewal, Danny Meitei (Akash Tirkey 88'), Vanlalpeka Guite; Korou Singh, Lalpekhlua Ralte (Gogocha Chungkham 90+3'); Thanglalsoun Gangte (Shashwat Panwar 85').