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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Ghana wary of African newcomers Niger in Round of 16

Ghana are twice winners but familiarity with the venue gives first-timers Niger an advantage as the teams meet in the FIFA U-17 World Cup pre-quarterfinal.

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 17, 2017 23:45 IST
Rajesh Pansare
Rajesh Pansare
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
FIFA U-17 World Cup,Ghana vs Niger,Ghana football team
Ghana will take on Niger in their FIFA U-17 World Cup Round of 16 encounter on Wednesday.(PTI)

Ghana are among the top football nations in Africa but the thoroughbreds aren’t taking things for granted as they gear up to face greenhorns from their continent Niger in the Round of 16 clash of the FIFA U-17 World Cup at the DY Patil Stadium on Wednesday.

Both teams have a point to prove. Ghana -- the two-time champions and Group A toppers -- have qualified for the first time since 2007 and will want to stamp their authority.

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Niger are among the newbies in African football challenging the dominance of established powers. This is their first World Cup and they want to show they are not here to just add up the numbers.

No easy games

Ghana and Niger squared off in the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations semifinals with Ghana only winning on penalties.

Ghana coach Samuel Fabin expects it to be a close affair as the teams have played each other many times.

“This is going to be tough as we had played them in Africa as well. They also have the belief they can overcome us. Because we know each other so well, playing each other will be difficult and tricky,” said Fabin.

Niger’s showing in the African Cup of Nations semis makes their coach Ismaila Tiemoko believe they can challenge the continental powerhouse.

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“We have nothing to lose and all to win in this match. Of course, it is a match of the World Cup and we expect the match to be rough and tough. The level will be quite high and it’s going to be a close match,” Tiemoko said.

He believes it will all come down to mental toughness than the physical or technical characteristics to churn out a result.

Ghana’s tight defence

On form, Ghana will be favourites to go through. They have conceded just one goal in three matches, and topped their group with victories over Colombia and India. They have played a very fast-paced brand of football which has caught everyone’s eye.

Niger were among the four best third-paced teams to qualify, after managing to win just one of their three group games. But they faced much tougher opponents in Spain and Brazil than Ghana did in their group.

Niger have created a lot of chances in the group games but the end product was missing. Niger coach Tiemoko will hope they don’t fluff the lines. For Fabin, it will be about Ghana continuing the good work and making sure the players don’t let their guard down.

First Published: Oct 17, 2017 19:25 IST