(All India Football Federation (AIFF))

The Indian men’s football team lost in the round of 16 at Hangzhou 2023. The women’s team had failed to progress beyond the group stage.

Asian Games 2023 football: India bow out after 2-0 loss to Saudi Arabia

The Indian men’s football team was knocked out of the Asian Games 2023 after a 2-0 loss to Saudi Arabia in their round of 16 match at the Huanglong Sports Center Stadium in Hangzhou, the People’s Republic of China on Thursday.

Mohammed Khalil Marran (51’, 57’) scored both goals for Saudi Arabia.

In the senior men’s football FIFA rankings, India are world No. 102 while Saudi Arabia are 57th. Men’s football tournaments at Asian Games, however, are under-23 affairs with each team being allowed a maximum of three players over the age limit.

En route to the knockouts, Sunil Chhetri and Co. lost to China 5-1 in the opener before beating Bangladesh 1-0 and holding Myanmar to a 1-1 draw. India finished second in Pool A behind China to seal a pre-quarterfinal spot.

Saudi Arabia finished second in Pool B behind Iran with two wins and a draw.

Playing in its traditional blue jersey, the Indian men’s football team started with a 4-4-2 formation and defended deep. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, played long balls into the Indian half in order to put pressure on the Indian backline. The Indian defence, led by veteran Sandesh Jinghan, held firm to keep the Saudi forwards at bay.

While Saudi Arabia enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, India resorted to counter attacks and carved out two decent chances around the 15-minute mark.

Sunil Chhetri won the ball in the opponent’s half but his shot went straight to the Saudi goalkeeper. Minutes later, the Indian captain found Sandesh Jhingan from a free-kick but the Indian defender’s header was cleared from the goal line.

After the two let offs, Saudi Arabia upped the ante. The Green Falcons almost scored the opening goal when Musab Al-Juwayr’s right footed shot beat the Indian custodian Dheeraj but clattered on the woodwork.

Saudi Arabia attacked the Indian half in waves and it took some last-ditch defending by the Indian backline to keep the scoreline level.

Saudi Arabia came close to scoring in the dying minutes of the first half when Zakaria Hawsawi broke into the Indian half and shot at goal only for Sandesh Jinghan to come up with a decisive block. The teams went into the break goalless.

The second half saw Saudi Arabia kick up a couple of gears and India failed to cope up. After five minutes of constant pressure, Saudi Arabia finally managed to take the lead through Mohammed Khalil Marran, who headed a cross past the Indian custodian Dheeraj Singh.

Minutes later, Mohammed Khalil Marran was in the thick of the action yet again and doubled Saudi teams lead. The forward received a through ball inside the Indian box before sidestepping the Indian keeper to slot it into the back of the net.

After the second goal, the Saudi Arabian team comfortably controlled the game and saw off the win to progress to the final eight.

The Indian men’s team’s exit also brings India’s football campaign at Hangzhou 2023 to an end. The women’s team failed to progress beyond the group stage.

The India football team has twice won the gold medal (1951 and 1962) at the Asian Games. The last time the Indian team reached the round of 16 was in 2010, where they lost 5-0 to Japan.

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