Last match, lit­tle chance

The Northlines - - SPORTS -

New Delhi:

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.

Slim chance

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.

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