Another stupendous year for Indian Football
The year 2016 saw some of the most amazing football in the history of India. Starting from winning the seventh SAFF Cup title to ending the year with their best rankings in the last six years, Indian football team started and ended the year on a high note. Let us have a look at some of the stupendous moments of Indian football in 2016.
Indian football starts the year with SAFF title
The Indian football team started their year with a win at the South Asian Football Federation Cup. They defeated the defending champions Afghanistan 2-1 in the finals at Thiruvananthapuram to win the tournament after five years. This was India's seventh SAFF title. Indian captain Sunil Chettri was named the 'Most Valuable Player' of the tournament, scoring three goals.
India at the World Cup Qualifiers
Indian football team had to face defeat in both the World Cup Qualifier matches played in March 2016. India lost 4-0 to Iran in the first match, while had a tight match against Turkmenistan. India were outplayed by Turkmenistan to win the match 2-1.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in Europa League
India's goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu became the first Indian footballer to play at the Europa League. He played for Norwegian club Stabaek in their clash against Connah's Quay Nomads. Even though he was on the field for only 30 minutes, before being taken off due to injury, Gurpreet made his way in to the history books with his performance.
India defeats Puerto Rico in an international friendly
On 3 September 2016, India defeated Peurto Rico 4-1 in an international friendly match at the Andheri Sports Complex in Mumbai. It was the first time that India had defeated a higher ranked team from Central America.
Bengaluru FC scripts history; reaches AFC Cup finals
Indian football club Bengaluru FC scripted history by becoming the first Indian football club to reach the finals of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup finals. Bengaluru FC reached the semi-finals by defeating defending champions Malaysia's Johor Darul Ta'zim Football Club, but lost 1-0 in the finals against Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya. The Indian club, however won the award for 'Fair Play' at the tournament.
Atletico de Kolkata win their second ISL title
The 2016 Hero Indian Super League saw an amazing finals with Atletico de Kolkata defeating Kerala Blasters 4-3 in the penalty shoot out to lift the title. It was the second title for the Kolkata based team after winning it once in the inaugural season of ISL in 2014. Marcelo Pereira of Delhi Dynamos scored the most number of goals (10) in the tournaments.
Indian football team achieves their best ranking in six years
The Indian football team ended 2016 by achieving their best rankings in the last six years. Led by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, they were placed 135th in the year end list published by Federation International de Football Association, football's world governing body. The team was ranked 134th in 2009, but stooped to as low as 174th in 2014.
Indian women start their SAFF campaign on high note
On 27 December, Indian women's football team crushed Afghanistan 5-1 in the opening match of the SAFF Cup at Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri, India. Having won the previous three editions of the tournament, Indian women's team are the favorites this year too.