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India vs Ghana: Hosts pin hopes on fighting spirit in ‘final’ FIFA U-17 World Cup tie

India face another test of character against former champions Ghana in their final Group A game of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 12, 2017 10:20 IST
Sayan Ghosh
Sayan Ghosh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
FIFA U-17 World Cup,FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017,India vs Ghana
India will take on Ghana in the final Group A game of the FIFA U-17 World Cup on Thursday. (PTI )

It has been a tournament to remember for the Indian football team, which has exceeded all expectations. The Amarjit Singh-led side has drawn praise from experts and supporters alike in the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

However, India have lost both their matches, against USA and Colombia. Still, they will be looking to keep their chances of reaching the knockout stages alive when they face a physical Ghana in the final Group A match here on Thursday.

(Read | FIFA U-17 World Cup: Ghana aim to silence home crowd to ensure victory against India)

The hosts can mathematically reach the next round, but it will need a lot of factors to go right for them. If India beat Ghana by four goals or more and USA beat Colombia by a big margin, the hosts can qualify for the pre-quarters as the second-placed side from the group. They can qualify as the third team even if they fail to beat Ghana by the required margin, but it will be a long shot for Portuguese coach Luis Norton De Matos’ boys.

Focus on win

“We will go for nothing less than a win. We have shown the world we belong on the same page as the other teams in our group. Now we want to show we can win against them. We will give it our all and aim to create history again,” Matos said on the eve of the Ghana game.

“Ghana are possibly the strongest team in the group and our biggest challenge will be to stop their two wingers from making those dangerous runs into the box.”

(Read | FIFA U-17 World Cup: France beat Japan to enter pre-quarterfinals)

The coach made many changes to the side after the 0-3 loss against USA and it worked wonders. Starting with a 4-1-4-1 line-up, de Matos used the tall Jeakson Singh to provide extra support to the defenders and they were able to maintain shape under pressure. It didn’t allow the Colombian strikers to find space. With Ghana relying mainly on their pacy wingers, de Matos will look to use the same formation.

Dheeraj trains for long rangers

Goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem has been the star performer for India so far. The Manipur-born custodian has impressed the fans with his saves. During training on Wednesday, his focus was on saving long range shots and he made two teammates take kicks from outside the box.

(Read | FIFA U-17 World Cup: India goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh makes an impact)

Jeakson Singh, who became the first Indian to score in a FIFA tournament with his equaliser against Colombia, will also play a key role as defensive midfielder. He provided many balls to the attackers in the Colombia game and with Abhijit Sarkar, and possibly Suresh Singh, making runs into the opposition box, it will again be tasked with maintaining stability at the heart of the midfield.

However, India had bad news as skipper Amarjit Singh and centre-back Anwar Ali missed practice due to injuries. Both were in deep conversation with the team physio. With the India coach hinting at new faces in the line-up, both could sit out.

“Amarjit and Anwar Ali are currently in conditional training and tomorrow we will be able to take a call on whether they will play or not. However, there will be some fresh legs in the starting XI tomorrow.”

Ghana are third in Group A with a win and loss. The Black Starlets were in great form in the win over Colombia, but the defeat to USA has hurt their momentum. With three points in their kitty, they need a win to qualify and will pin hopes on their physical superiority and speed to break down India’s resistance.

First Published: Oct 11, 2017 21:10 IST

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