The Indian Under-17 squad will take the field at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Thursday as they host Ghana in their final group stage match of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
Rooted at the bottom of Group A with two losses from their encounters against the United States of America and Colombia, the chances of the hosts qualifying into the knock-out stages are few.
However, they can take heart from how they performed in the tournament so far, especially in their last match against Colombia where they were unfortunate not to get a result.
Winger Komal Thatar who had a fine outing during India’s opener against USA was a surprise exclusion the previous night. The team put forth by Luis Norton de Matos though, coped pretty well without him as the likes of Abhijit Sarkar, Aniket Jadhav and Nongdamba Naorem proved to be quite a handful for the opposition.
Their quick passing and incisive runs split the Colombian defence on multiple occasions, and they will be looking to do much of the same against a defensively robust Ghana side.
Anwar Ali marshalled the backline pretty well, although he picked up a knock late on in the game. His fitness will be key to India keeping the visitors at bay.
One player who will be high on confidence would be Jeakson Singh. The midfielder, who stands over six feet tall, took full advantage of his height to head home India’s first ever-and as of now only-goal in a FIFA World Cup competition of any format.
The colts also owe a lot to their shot-stopper Dheeraj Singh, who has come with multiple superb and important saves in both the matches. The custodian would want to be his usual alert self when the team rubs shoulders against Ghana.
The Black Starlets would be banking on their pacey winger Ibrahim Sadiq to deliver. The 17-year-old has scored his team’s only goal thus far in the tournament, which was enough to seal a victory over Colombia in their first match.
However, they suffered a narrow 1-0 loss against USA and a win against India would seal qualification for them.
Eric Ayiah fervently led the attack in that match and made some intelligent runs while displaying quick feet. He will hope to do that with more success against a team desperate for a win.
Playing at home, the Indians would love to end their group campaign with a first ever FIFA World Cup win, and with the amount of determination and heart shown by the players so far, that achievement cannot be ruled out by any means.