Football: India knocked out of Asian Games 2023

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 The quest for a medal in Asian Games 2023 ended for India’s football team as they lost to Saudi Arabia 2-0 in their round of 16 match at the Huanglong Sports Center Stadium here on Thursday.

Mohammed Khalil Marran (51’, 57’) scored a brace for Saudi Arabia.

India reached a pre-quarterfinal spot after they finished second in Pool A behind China. India lost to China 5-1 in the opener and then triumphed over Bangladesh 1-0 and drew 1-1 against Myanmar.

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

Saudi Arabia dominated the game early as India tried to break into their rival’s zone by staging counter attacks around the 15-minute mark.

Sunil Chhetri won the ball in the striking zone, but kicked straight into the goalkeeper’s hands. Minutes later, Sandesh Jhingan’s header was off the mark on captain Chhetri’s free-kick.

Surviving the measured jolts, Saudi Arabia almost got their first goal when Musab Al-Juwayr beat Indian custodian Dheeraj, but his right-footer thuded on the wooden caricature.

Saudi Arabia constantly forayed into the Indian half, but the determined Indian defenders kept them at the bay.

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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