High-spirited India look to win against Ghana
New Delhi: Their transformation from rank outsiders to valiant fighters drawing all-round praise, India face another test of character against former champions Ghana in their final group A game of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup on Thursday.
Not many had given India any chance against Colombia after their 0-3 loss to United States in their opening match but the home side put up an inspired performance, showing that the country can compete against the best in the world.
Coach Luis Norton de Matos' defensive gameplan was executed to near perfection by his players against Colombia and the tournament debutants would have eked out a win had a bit of luck gone their way.
Colombia largely dominated the match but as de Matos later asserted, the outcome of that game could have been different had India taken the lead in the first half. It could have happened if Rahul Kannoly's first half stoppage time volley had not hit the post.
With the expectations now rising, de Matos and his boys would be aiming to show that the performance against Colombia was no fluke and they were worthy competitors in this global showpiece, where they were automatic qualifiers as hosts. But it will not be easy for them as Ghana are the most physical side in the group. No doubt, the two-time former champions Ghana will start as clear favourites in tomorrow's final Group A match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Even a win for India, which is unlikely though not improbable, is not expected to take them to the knock-out stage as USA have already booked a round of 16 berth while Colombia and Ghana are on three points each.
Without any point so far, India have conceded five goals and scored once to have a goal difference — which will decide the group rankings if two or more teams have equal points — of minus four, the least among the four teams in the group. With a nearly non-existent youth development system in the country and hence a small pool of talented youngsters, de Matos built a team in seven months after he took charge in March. From the beginning he has been rightly saying that India have a small chance of winning each of the three group matches.
He had to devise a defensive gameplan and banking on counter-attacks through quick transition to offensive mode. De Matos knows that it is easier said than done with his player lacking in competition experience.