India finished their group stage engagements with one goal scored and nine conceded as they finished bottom of their group, with no points in their Fifa World Cup debut at the global Under-17 showpiece held at home.

The hosts will rue the fact that they let in soft goals on many a occasion without creating too many gilt-edged chances in front of goal. Unsurprisingly, they finished among the lowest scorers in the tournament with only North Korea and Chile, both with no goals from their two matches, more goal-shy than the hosts.

Matches Played, Shots, Shots on Target, Attempts on Target, Woodwork (Image courtesy:

Attack misfiring

Jeakson Thounaojam bagged their only goal against Colombia, but the young Blues had a total of 21 attempts with seven on target, a reasonable shooting accuracy of 33% but there were a large number of shots from outside the box.

They racked up the most number of shots on target against the South Americans, and had four attempts on the goal-frame but could only convert one. Abhijit Sarkar’s shot was saved in the first half while Rahul KP’s shot hit the frame of the goal in first-half stoppage time.

The games against the US and Ghana did not yield shots from within the box, as 190 minutes yielded 15 attempts, with three on target, all from range. India’s goal-bound attempts against the Africans came from Aniket and Lalengmawia at the end of the game.

Luis Norton de Matos’ safety-first, counter-attacking approach meant that while chances were always going to be sporadic, the young tigers failed to make most of their possession in the first and third matches.

The strikers, Rahim Ali and Aniket Jadhav, failed to keep the ball for a long time with their backs to goal as both were rotated by De Matos, in an attempt to yield an outlet. The Portuguese used a total of 17 players, as Mohammed Shahjahan and Hendry Antonay, along with goalkeepers Prabsukhan Gill and Sunny Dhaliwal were the four players not used.

Co-incidentally, most of India’s chances on target came against Colombia in which the hosts had 32% possession. Teams like England have proven that you don’t need many shots to score goals, as Jadon Sancho and co. have scored seven from only 14 attempts on target.

India’s 21 shots doesn’t compare favourably to the rest of the teams who on an average had 39.9 shots on goal during this tournament. Only New Caledonia (6.5) and Chile (5) have had fewer average shots per match than India (7).

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The story of the defence

India were defensively organised during the 143 first-half minutes they played in the tournament, conceding only two goals from 8 shots on target. Dheeraj Moirangthem played well and made 16 saves throughout the tournament.

The hosts flagged towards the second half of matches, conceding 68% of their total shots on target in that period. Seven of the nine goals conceded were scored in those 145 minutes, as India faced a total of 17 shots on target.

While Ghana resorted to shooting from outside the box, the US also had six shots on target in the second half. The defence allowed a shot every 4 minutes, as opposition teams racked up 36 shots in the latter halves of matches.

This was most visible against Ghana, where they allowed as many as six shots in the last 10 minutes. They were visibly tired. It was not a coincidence that the team conceded four goals after the 80th minute in the tournament, as teams countered and picked them off.

India also turned over possession far too easily during the second halves of matches, managing a 37% possession in these periods, marginally lesser than the 39% on average that they managed in the opening halves.

Overall, only New Caledonia have faced more shots on target (30) than their fellow debutants, conceding 12 goals in their two matches. Along with the former French territory, only Honduras (6 goals from 2 matches) have conceded as many goals per match as India.

It was surely a important first step for India to take and as fitness improves and as mistakes are cut out, the hosts will need more competitive experience to step their game up to the next level.