Generally, when a team loses the first two matches in a four-team group, the spectators' interest in the particular side fades away quickly. But in case of the India U-17 side, the situation is completely different.
The defeat against the United States and Colombia notwithstanding, the Indian boys are being treated as heroes.
If a 48,000-strong crowd watched India wage an epic battle in the 1-2 loss against Colombia, a bigger number of people are expected to throng the Nehru Stadium on Thursday night for the India-Ghana encounter.
So much so, even the Union sports ministry seems to have geared up for the match. On the first two days, the ministry grabbed 1,100 VIP enclosure tickets (for each day) from the local organising committee. For Thursday's tie, the ministry has demanded 200 more tickets.
"There is a massive demand for tickets... It looks like the city has suddenly woken up with an idea that India could upset Ghana in the last group match," said an official.
Without a point in their kitty, the chances of India making the next grade in the under-17 World Cup is remote. But still, the calculators are out to find out whether India can make the Round of 16 as the third best team.
After two rounds of matches, the US lead Group A with six points and a goal difference of plus four, while Colombia and Ghana have three points each, though Colombia have scored more goals (2-2) than Ghana (1-1). India have no point, have conceded five goals and scored one.
To make things simple, under the current situation, fortune can smile on India only if they beat Ghana by a big margin and Colombia lose to the US.
While determining the teams who would qualify for the last 16 as the four third-best teams, the results of all the six groups will have to be taken into consideration.
Frankly, India are on the verge of elimination, but still, hopes are high after the home team's display against Colombia. Players like Anwar Ali, Suresh Singh, Namit Deshpande and Rahim Ali have really raised the bar.
The sudden surge in confidence has not gone unnoticed in the Ghana camp, too. Samuel Fabin, the Ghana coach, sounded serious when asked about Thursday's match.
"We are two-time champions... To return home after the first round would be disastrous," he said.
"The Indians have really impressed us and that's the worry. They should have won against Colombia. Players like goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh and Anwar had given great display on the pitch," said the Ghana coach.
After losing to the US, the African side have their back to the wall and are now left with a must-win situation against India. They are a highly skilful and physical side and under normal circumstances, should be able to beat India.
But, it is not skill alone that is going to decide things on the pitch. Indian striker Rahim has already sent a warning for the rivals saying he is ready for Ghana.
"They will play with two legs. We also will play with two legs. So, what is there to worry about? Let us see, who gets the better of whom in the match," the Bengal boy thundered.
India, however, have a problem. Because of injuries suffered in the match against Colombia, both skipper Amarjit and defender Anwar are doubtful starters. Luis Norton De Matos said a decision on the duo would be taken only on Thursday morning.
"The battle against Ghana would be the toughest. The taller boys in the Indian team would be of great importance. In Ghana, Rashid Alhassan would be the most dangerous player," said De Matos.
But all said and done, Thursday's match would be more about India's spirit and Ghana's desperation. In the team meeting, the Indian players have assured De Matos they would do their best to come back with three points. The boys, it seems, are more confident than their coach.
Credit: The Telegraph