The India U16 fell short of scripting history after losing 0-1 to heavyweights South Korea U16 in the quarterfinals of AFC U16 Championship in Kuala Lumpur.
Qualifying after a gap of 16 years, India were one win away from a historic semifinal appearance in the tournament and a first-ever direct merit qualification into the 2019 FIFA U17 World Cup.
The Indian colts were knocked out as Korea Republic sealed the match through substitute Jeong Sang-bin in the 68th minute.
A series of passes in the final-third allowed Korea's Choi Min-seo to unleash a blinder on target. India's goalkeeper Niraj Kumar managed to block Min-seo's strike but a surging Jeong Sang-bin, making most of the rebound, tapped into an empty net.
The Indian colts, after 337 minutes, conceded their first goal in the tournament. Coach Bibiano Fernandes’s side had punched above their belt to keep the probing South Koreans, who had scored 12 goals in their group games, at bay throughout the match.
Indian fans took to Twitter to hail India’s spirited performance:
No shame in going down with a fight. I am proud of the way you boys played, the courage you displayed and for the hope you have left us with. I am a fan and you boys motivate me as well. Chin up. #KORvIND
— Sunil Chhetri (@chetrisunil11) October 1, 2018
I’ll tell you what, 10 years ago we played South Korea (U-16) that was a completely different game and watching this game after a decade, i see the difference and it is such a proud feeling to watch these boys making it difficult for one of the best youth teams in Asia! #KORvIND
— Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (@GurpreetGK) October 1, 2018
— Rino Anto (@rinoanto) October 1, 2018
This team has many #StarsOfTomorrow . i m sure in future they will do great. as far as todays match concerns its ok we are down by 1-0 whereas south korean team dominated opponents by more margins. This is a good sign...@BluePilgrims @IndianFootball @fni #korvind
— Taposh Kumar Sharma (@TaposhSharma9) October 1, 2018
Indian football has a bright future ahead of us .What these U16 boys have done is not by any means a small achievement .Conceding a single goal in four matches against four of the best teams in Asia is a huge achievement.#KORvIND
— pijush deka (@pijushdeka) October 1, 2018
India last qualified to the quarters of the AFC U16 Championship in 2002. They went down 1-3 to the same opponents, the then South Korea U16 side, who went on to lift the cup.