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Awaiting a miracle

Awaiting a miracle
A rare treat awaits Indian football fans, as the country gears up to make its maiden appearance in a FIFA World Cup tournament, of any level, as the U-17 tournament kicks off in the capital on October 6. Not many would know that India did not even have a U-17 team before being awarded the tournament by the sport's governing body. Football pundits don't expect the Indian boys to make a concerted bid for the title. Even incurable optimists wouldn't pin their hopes on the host nation's prospects. The Indian team will begin their campaign with a tough opener at Jawaharlal Nehru stadium against heavyweights USA. The team's Portuguese coach Luis Norton de Matos said in a recent interview that the boys would do their best. De Matos has a rather daunting task ahead. He was appointed as coach, earlier this year, after Nicolai Adam was unceremoniously sent packing. De Matos has to instil self-belief in a bunch of rank newcomers to take on the big boys. The Indian team would need to play out of their skins to have a realistic shot at upsetting some of the more fancied sides. The 53-year old former Portugal striker has said that the team would go for broke. India is in what can be described as a 'group of death' with formidable foes like USA, Colombia and Ghana, which have considerable exposure at the highest levels. Midfielder Amarjit Singh Kiyam has been named the captain of this fledgeling team. The coach is hopeful that the pride of donning the Indian colours will bring out the best in the boys. Unlike any of the previous national teams, the India U-17 team has travelled extensively over the last two and a half years in a bid to prepare for this showpiece event. Their finest moment came in August when they held fancied Chile to a 1-1 draw in Mexico City. Chile, who have just arrived in India, qualified for the finals as the runners-up of the South American U-17 Championship. Buoyed by the show against Chile, they secured an emphatic 3-0 win against Mauritius in Goa. Understandably, the Indian coach has refused to make any predictions. Apart from captain Amarjit, midfielders Suresh Singh Wangjam and Abhijit Sarkar, striker Aniket Jadhav and goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem are among those that may help India put it past the better teams. The team also has two NRIs -US-based defender Namit Deshpande and Sunny Dhaliwal, a goalkeeper who is a Canada resident. Will the boys be able to capitalise on the boisterous home support? Will the patriotic fervour help Team India pull off a miracle? Let the spectacle begin.
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