India defender Aniket Jadhav, centre, makes a timely clearance in the Under-17 World Cup match against the United States, in New Delhi, on Friday. Image: AP
New Delhi: India showed heart but lacked in skill and quality as a much superior United States of America handed them a 3-0 thrashing in their opening encounter of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, in New Delhi, on Friday night.
Playing in their maiden FIFA tournament, rank outsiders India were outclassed by a side that was, without doubt, a few notches above, physically and technically.
Captain and star striker Josh Sargent gave the United States the lead in the 30th minute through a penalty before Chris Dunkin (51st minute)scored a freak goal and Andrew Carleton (84th) added another on the counter.
But for the fine anticipatory skills of goalkeeper Moirangthem Deeraj Singh, who effected some impressive saves, the 'Boys in Blue' may have conceded even more goals.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who graced Indian football's historic moment, greeted the players of both teams before the kick-off.
Modi, who arrived at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium after the day's first match between Ghana and Colombia, stepped out of the VIP dais to the playing pitch and greeted the team.
As predicted by head coach Luis Norton de Matos, the US made a wave attacks throughout the match and India were left to defend their citadel for the better part of it.
While the US got several chances, India had only a couple of clear looks at the rival goal.
Midfielder Komal Thatal wasted a chance in the second half, his lob was going off the target, while Anwar Ali's rasping shot in the 83rd minute hit the horizontal bar.
The crowd at the stadium cheered the home players, who became the first ever national team to play in a FIFA World Cup at any level, but the gulf in the class was clearly evident.
The accuracy in passes, the first touch, position sense of the US players made it clear that it was always a catching up game for the Indians.
India were pushed back in their own half most of the time in the face of incessant US attacks.
The US attacking trio of Sargent, Tim Weah and Ayo Akinola kept the Indian defence on tenterhooks.
India's Portuguese coach surprisingly named midfielder Abhijt Sarkar and Rahul Kannoly, as right full back, in the starting line-up, with Aniket Jadhav being the lone man upfront. The ultra-defensive tactic put them under severe pressure from the start.
US captain and striker Sargent, who will sign up with Bundesliga side Werder Bremen next year, found himself alone in the Indian box but his shot ricocheted off the Indian custodian's chest.
Then in the 20th minute a corner was punched away by goalkeeper Dheeraj.
After a sustained period of attacks, Sargent was body-checked by Jitendra Singh off the ball inside the box and the referee promptly pointed to the dreaded spot at the half-hour mark.
Sargent himself stepped up and converted from the spot.
Ningthoinganba Meetei and Komal Thatal made a few good moves from the right and left flanks respectively but those were not threatening enough.
Aniket had a crack at goal late in the first half but it went straight into US goalkeeper's grasp.
India had a golden chance in 49th minute but Thatal's shot sailed over.
Following a clearance by Ningthoinganba, the ball bounced past American defender Chris Durkin and Thatal was hurried into lobbing it way over cross piece.
In the 70th minute, de Matos made two changes in search of a goal, Nongdam Naorem coming for Ningthoinganba and striker Rahim Ali for Abhijit. The move provided some impetus to the Indian attack.
The third goal was a classical counter-attack after the US defence got hold off a crossbar rebound off Snwar Ali's shot.
The US made a quick counter attack and the Indian defenders did not have the speed to run back in time to defend.
Carleton was sent in the clear and the striker, with an outside dodge, beat Dheeraj before easily slotting the ball home.