It took Brazil an injury-time winner and a controversial penalty to secure a comeback victory against Mexico in the final of the Fifa U-17 World Cup in Estadio Bezerrao in Gama, Brazil on Monday.
While the Seleção brought back the trophy home in style, in contrast, the previous edition ended in a bitter note for hosts India, who crashed out of the group stages with a massive goal difference.
But what about the players who we all cheered for when India hosted their first-ever Fifa tournament two years ago?
Only a handful of players from Luis Norton de Matos’ squad have managed to earn a promotion to the senior team while many others have either struggled to settle at their club or earn regular playing opportunities.
Following the end of the mega event, most of the youngsters were drafted into the Indian Arrows team that was formed to compete in the I-League. But now nearly all of them have a contract tied up with an Indian Super League club.
We take a look back at the players from India’s U-17 World Cup squad to see where they are now and how they’re getting on.
Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem (Goalkeeper, ATK)
Despite India’s campaign coming to an end during the group stages, Moirangthem was arguably the most standout performer for the hosts at 2017 U-17 World Cup. Secured a trial with Scottish side Motherwell FC following his heroics at the showpiece event but was denied a work permit since he was not 18.
Moirangthem hasn’t started any games for ATK after being the first-choice keeper at Kerala Blasters last season. Earlier this month, the teenager received his first call-up to the national team.
Prabhsukhan Gill (Goalkeeper, Bengaluru FC)
Did not feature in any of India’s games during the World Cup, playing as a back up to Moirangthem. The Chandigarh keeper an impressive stint with Indian Arrows during the 2017-’18 I-League season, filling up for Moirangthem. Joined Bengaluru FC during the summer and is down in the pecking order under India’s senior goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Sunny Dhaliwal (Goalkeeper, Toronto FC)
With a towering frame of 6 feet 5 inch, Dhaliwal was one of the two NRIs to be selected for the U-17 World Cup squad. He currently trains with the Toronto Football Academy and has also undergone trials with a couple of Major League Soccer clubs.
Boris Singh Thangjam (Defender, ATK)
The right-back was one of the few players to train with the Indian team ever since they began their preparation for the event in 2015. Was a regular starter under former coach Nicolai Adam and even impressed Luis Norton de Matos, making 31 appearances while chipping in with a few crucial goals.
Jitendra Singh (Defender, Jamshedpur FC)
The centre-back signed for Jamshedpur FC after spending two seasons with Indian Arrows. Captained India during their Saff U-18 Championship triumph during September.
Anwar Ali (Defender, Mumbai City FC)
Touted as one of the most promising prospects in Indian football, Ali’s current scenario is very unfortunate. He seemed to be in India coach Igor Stimac’s long-term plans after being named in the probables list for the King’s Cup, Intercontinental Cup and the World Cup qualifiers. However, it is unclear whether the defender will be able to step on the football pitch again as he is undergoing treatment for a congenital heart condition.
Sanjeev Stalin (Defender, Indian Arrows)
Everyone is aware of Jeakson Singh scoring India’s first and only iconic goal at a Fifa tournament but it was Stalin that supplied the assist for Jeakson’s header from a corner. Stalin, a marauding left-back who is also a dead-ball specialist, is set to continue with the Indian Arrows for his third straight season.
Hendry Antonay (Chennaiyin FC)
He was in and out of the squad under former national team coach Nicolai Adam but initially found a place in India’s 21-man World Cup squad under Matos. However, Antonay did not feature in any of India’s matches at the tournament. The full-back is currently part of Chennaiyin FC’s squad.
Namit Deshpande (Defender, US Soccer Developmental Academy)
The centre-back became the first NRI to play for India after earning a spot in the playing eleven during India’s 1-2 group stage defeat against Colombia. Deshpande currently trains with the US Soccer Developmental Academy.
Suresh Singh Wangjam (Midfielder, Bengaluru FC)
Similar to Boris, Wangjam was one of the many names who were part of the All India Football Federation Elite Academy batch that trained for the U-17 World Cup. Made his ISL debut earlier this month for Bengaluru FC, coming on as a substitute during their goalless draw against Jamshedpur.
Ninthoinganba Meetei (Midfielder, NorthEast United)
Meetei was one of the few vital cogs for the Indian Arrows during the 2017-’18 season. The diminutive midfielder, who possesses a varied passing range with an eye for goal was recently adjudged the Valuable Player of the Tournament during India’s 2019 Saff Championship victory. Meetei is currently contracted with NorthEast United.
Amarjit Singh Kiyam (Midfielder, Jamshedpur FC)
No other player from the U-17 squad has achieved success as much as Kiyam, who captained India during the World Cup. Known for his ability to contribute at both ends of the pitch, Kiyam has already received praise from national team coach Stimac after impressing on his debut against Curacao at the King’s Cup.
However, Kiyam is yet to appear for new club Jamshedpur FC this season after suffering a hand injury in training shortly before India’s 2022 World Cup qualifier campaign.
Abhijit Sarkar (Midfielder, East Bengal)
Featured in just two games under Matos during the U-17 World Cup and displayed his potential during the 2017-’18 season, finishing as the top goal-scorer for Indian Arrows. He has returned back to his hometown to play for East Bengal, on loan from Chennaiyin FC.
Komal Thatal (Winger, ATK)
The winger who sported a mohawk decided against joining the Indian Arrows and signed for ATK during the 2017-’18 season but got limited chances under Tim Sherwood. Thatal, though, had a breakthrough season the following year after Steve Coppell arrived, featuring regularly for the Kolkata-based side where he also became the youngest goalscorer in the ISL.
He was called up to the senior team in June after being included in the probables list for the King’s Cup but has failed to make the cut ever since.
Lalengmawia (Midfielder, NorthEast United)
Played only two games at the World Cup, coming on a substitute. The Mizoram midfielder signed for the Highlanders in the summer after playing a total of 13 games under Floyd Pinto at Indian Arrows.
Jeakson Singh (Midfielder, Kerala Blasters)
A player who needs no introduction. One of the many talents from the Minerva Punjab academy, Jeakson was roped in by Blasters last season but was shipped out on loan to Indian Arrows due to lack of first-team opportunities. However, the central midfielder has found regular game time under new coach Eelco Schattorie.
Nongdamba Naorem (Midfielder, Mohun Bagan)
Naorem has plied his trade for as much as four clubs in his professional career. It was during the 2017-’18 I-League season where he once grabbed eyeballs after scoring a wondergoal against Shillong Lajong, dribbling past four defenders before finding the net.
On loan to Mohun Bagan from Blasters, Naorem has notched 3 goals from 10 appearances for the Mariners this season.
Rahul Kannoly Praveen (Midfielder, Kerala Blasters)
Played three games at the Fifa World Cup in three different positions under Matos. Praveen is now playing for his hometown club Blasters after spending two-seasons with Indian Arrows. The pacy winger has impressed so far in his debut ISL season under Schattorie and already has a goal to his name after scoring with a neat-finish against Hyderabad FC.
Mohammad Shahjahan (Midfielder, Jamshedpur FC B)
The Minerva academy graduate once almost came close to quitting the game due to lack of game time under Adam and uncertainty over his playing position. After reviving his career at Minerva, he was sent out on loan to Delhi United FC last year before joining the Jamshedpur FC reserves in the summer.
Rahim Ali (Forward, Chennaiyin FC)
Made his ISL debut for Chennaiyin during their recent defeat to Bengaluru after spending the previous season on loan at Indian Arrows. Ali, who can play both as a winger or striker, has also trained with the junior teams of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan so far in his career.
Aniket Jadhav (Forward, Jamshedpur FC)
The striker spent two seasons with Indian Arrows before undergoing a three-month trial with Championship side Blackburn Rovers in March earlier this year. The ball boy-turned-footballer is currently part of Jamshedpur FC squad and has played all of their games. He notched his first ISL goal last month, scoring a pinpoint header against Odisha FC.