Leave aside the amount of praise India’s Under-17 team has received in the last week. Leave aside the fact that opponents like US and Colombia have termed the hosts as tough nuts to crack.
India will possibly be playing their last FIFA’s U-17 World Cup game when they take on Ghana in their last Group A game at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Thursday.
A win may keep Indian hopes alive for the next stage of the competition, depending on many other permutations and combinations.
It may be a heartbreak for football fans around the country, but then the only consolation is that the Indian Blue Cubs could well be seen in action in yet another FIFA event again in 2019, if India’s bid to host the 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup is accepted.
For now, names like Jeakson Singh, Amarjit Singh Kiyam or Rahim Ali may not be in the class of the Ronaldo or Messi or Neymar but they are well registered in the memories of Indian football fans.
“We will go for nothing less than a win. We have shown the world that we belong on the same page as them and now we want to show that we can win against them,” said India’s head coach Luis Norton de Matos.
The coach understands how difficult it may be for him to motivate the boys to give their 100 per cent for third time in a row. India should also understand that after giving scare to a team like Colombia, which is No. 10 in the world, Ghana will certainly come up with a special strategy against them.
Ghana displayed skill and pace against Colombia and US, though they lost 0-1 to the latter.
“Ghana will be a physical as well as a mental challenge for us. They are a strong physical team who are quick on the ball. We will have to be on our toes for the entirety of the match, if we are to secure a win,” Matos said on the eve of this crucial tie.
On the other hand, skipper Amarjit said Ghana is a strong side and needs to be tackled in special way. “We have the utmost respect for our opponents but we will give them a very tough fight, even tougher than what we gave Colombia. It is a matter of survival and we will do anything to go into the next round,” he said.
Playing in Delhi has proved to be master stroke for Indian juniors. With Delhi never been known as football city, the initial reactions were lukewarm when Sports ministry forced AIFF to shift matches to this Capital city from Mumbai.
“Against Ghana, we will need a lot of fans support. We will give it our very best on the pitch. I expect all to be cheering for us like they have done for us. We won’t disappoint them. Come and back the blue,” the Indian coach did appreciate the huge spectators support that they have got in first two matches.
On the other hand, Ghana chief coach Samuel Fabin also praised the Indian performance so far and said that his team is not “underestimating the hosts”.
“We certainly need full three points to advance to next stage,” said the coach. “I have told my boys to convert the chances into goals.”