Flashback 2016: A successful year for Indian football team

Bengaluru, Dec 20: 2016 is definitely one of the best years for Indian football team in the last decade. Going by pure statistics the national side played 6 matches so far this year, winning 4 out of those 6.

They have a win percentage of 66 and one of those four wins, came against a much higher ranked Puerto Rico in September.

SAFF Champions Indian football team

The year started on a high note as India defeated Afghanistan 2-1 to win the SAFF Championship title for the record seventh time.

Hosts India displayed a dominant performance throughout and won all the four matches to lift the coveted trophy.

Unfortunately, their uphill progress graph received a big jolt as they suffered a shock 0-4 defeat against Asian powerhouse Iran in FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifiers.

Their successive defeat came at the hands of Turkmenistan and India were officially out of the group stage of the qualifier with just 1 win. They finished last in the group.

Half the year had passed and India's performance were not up to the mark. Questions were raised on coach Stephen Constantine's credibility as the Indian manager.

Then came the Asian Cup 2019 qualifier and India were pitted against a much lower ranked Laos side in the initial round.

India traveled away to take on Laos in the first match of the two-legged qualifier. A solitary goal from India's SAFF Cup hero Jeje Lalpekhlua sealed the game in the visitor's favour.

Indians (blue) in action against Laos

Within 5 days on June 7, Laos came to India to play the second leg. A packed Guwahati stadium was there to welcome India and they cheered their heart for the Indian side.

Indian team did not disappoint the crowd as they register a historic 6-1 win over Laos, one of India's biggest win in international football.

Jeje Lalpekhlua celebrates after scoring against Puerto Rico

India played their final match of the year a much higher ranked Puerto Rico at the Mumbai Football Arena. It was always going to be tough match given how Indians had earlier performed against a tougher opponent.

To every fans' surprise, the Sunil Chhetri-led Indian outfit outclassed Puerto Rico to beat them 4-1. It was a stellar performance for Stephen Constantine's men which also recorded one of India's best performance against such a higher ranked side.

India is about to complete the year 2016 with FIFA ranking of 137. It is India's highest ranking in the last 6 years.

The last time they achieved such a high ranking it was under manager Bob Houghton in 2016.

OneIndia News

Story first published: Tuesday, December 20, 2016, 17:49 [IST]
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