Last match, little chance
India’s inspiring campaign in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup could come to an end tomorrow. The hosts will face two-time champions Ghana in their final league fixture with a burning desire to register an elusive win in what could be their last match of their maiden World Cup appearance.
Given India’s showing so far, the possibility of them beating Ghana doesn’t seem too farfetched. The hosts have shown they are no pushovers. Had luck favoured them in the last game, against Colombia, they could have won their first match of the World Cup. Besides, Ghana haven’t lived up to their reputation so far in the tournament, and that would further strengthen India’s hopes of upstaging the fancied African rivals in front of the cheering fans. In their last five fixtures, Ghana have managed to score only once. They barely won their World Cup opener against Colombia 1-0, but went down 0-1 against the USA. And before coming into the World Cup, they lost to Mali 0-1 and played goalless draws against football novices Niger and Guinea. So the hosts have reasons to believe that they could turn the tables on the two-time champions. They need to play with the same intensity and confidence as they did against Colombia, and maybe they can get a little more attacking.
If India lose to Ghana, it’s the end of the road for them. But if they manage to beat Ghana by a big margin, at least by four goals, they could hope to sneak in if other results go their way. From their group, USA have already qualified for the Round of 16, while Colombia and Ghana have three point each. Assuming India manage to put it across Ghana, the big goal difference — they have scored one and conceded five — could still see them bowing out of the tournament.
Anyway, they need to win the game first and worry about the goal difference later. And that’s exactly what the team is focussing on. “Ghana will be a physical as well as mental challenge for us,” India’s chief coach Luis Norton de Matos said. “They are physically strong, quick on the ball. We will have to be on our toes if we are to beat them. The boys are ready for the challenge, and we will give it our all.” Midfielder Jeakson Thounaojam, who created history by becoming the first Indian ever to score in a FIFA tournament, said it’s going to be a physically taxing battle against Ghana. “They are a strong side. The stronger built of their players will be a challenge but we have confidence in our abilities.”
The hosts, however, might miss the services of their captain Amarjit Singh Kiyam and defender Anwar Ali, who are recovering from their injuries suffered during the Colombia game, in this allimportant game. Coach Matos will take a final call on them before the start of the match. As was the case during the Colombia match, Matos would bank on packing his defence and midfield.
“Our match against India is critical for us to book our place in the next round. We are creating a lot of chancesbut we must do better in terms of finishing the chances we create,” said Ghana coach Samuel Fabin.