One could not have expected much from a depleted Indian side, but the presence of Adil Khan back from injury, had raised confidence levels at kick-off. Together with Rahul Bheke, he manned the defence well, but it was his left flank which let him down repeatedly.
Igor Stimac wisely decided to replace Mandar Rao Desai at half time even if putting his job on the line by using Farookh, who everyone knows as an attacking medio as the substitute. The change could and should have been done earlier and might just have prevented the goal Afghanistan got at the stroke of half time.
For a country ravaged by war and insurgencies for decades, and with the ultra-conservative Taliban back as part of the government, Afghan football did not seem to have been affected too badly though. They fought all the way including using the time wasting tricks perfected by modern football teams.
So what if a few of their players are reported to be playing in minor leagues in Europe? I haven’t read their names or the clubs they play for anywhere – the known face to us Indians is that of Amiri who disappeared after two seasons in the ISL. Maybe we too could look for players of Indian origins in the minor leagues of Europe. (The author was the first sports reporter of The Navhind Times, ex-president of Panvel Sports Club, ex-secretary of GFA and ex-general secretary of Dempo SC).