Ghana would qualify to the next stage of the competition if they are able to beat India, who have lost all their matches so far in their final Group A fixture of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi on Thursday. It could have happened if Rahul Kannoly's first half stoppage time volley had not hit the post.
Twice world champions in 1991 and 1995, the Starlets started the competition slowly with a lone goal victory over Colombia before losing to the United States of America by the same margin, but now they must raise their game against the host team, considered to be the weakest in group A.
Just before the boys began their pre-game session on Wednesday, coach Luis Norton de Matos came up with one of the more profound soundbites he has given since arriving in India. "I think it will be a very exciting game tomorrow", he added. At 17, the tall midfielder from Manipur scored India's first ever goal in the World Cup finals. Thanking the fans for their support, Sanjeev Stalin said, "We play for the fans, they are our everything and we thank them for the wonderful support that they have given us". And, from the beginning he has been rightly saying that India have a small chance of winning each of the three group matches.
Despite a 1-2 defeat against the South American side, India showed lot of character and matched their superior opponent neck-to-neck for most of the game.
"But today was a tough match for both teams".
De Matos is likely to continue with the same strategy against Ghana tomorrow. In Anwar's absence, Namit Deshpande, who started against Colombia, may pair with Jitendra Singh as central defenders.
"India played very well against Colombia". Jeakson Singh Thounaojam etched his name in Indian history books by becoming the first goal-scorer in a FIFA World Cup of any age-group.
De Matos has a lot of options in the midfield as he has packed the squad with players who can play in these positions. Two-time former champions Ghana are also the most physical side in the group, so it will be another massive task for India to cope with on Thursday.