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Sad end to India's campaign
India's campaign in the Under-17 World Cup came to a disappointing end as the hosts were blanked 0-4 by a ruthless Ghana side here on Thursday. It was the third straight defeat for Norton de Matos' side in India's first-ever World Cup and the most painful of the lot as the team were never really in the game.
Two goals from Eric Aiyah just before the half-time in the 43th minute and the 52nd minute were followed by couple of late strikes — Richard Danso (86th) and Emmanuel Toku (88th) — to end India's campaign in the tournament on a sad note.
In the other Group A match, Colombia stunned United States of America 3-1 in Navi Mumbai. Hence, Ghana topped the group, followed by Colombia and USA in 2nd and 3rd positions respectively, while India finished at the bottom of the pool.
Earlier, India started brightly in front of a staggering 52,614 vocal fans in the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium and they won a corner within the first minute but they couldn't make the most of it. The Blue Cubs started to attack in numbers. However, the early pressure faded off soon as Ghana started to find their feet in counter-attacks.
In the 6th minute, Aiyah tapped the ball into an empty net, but an off-side from the linesman saved the Indian team. Isaac Gyamfi was a commanding presence in midfield. He won a lot of ball from the opponents and kept hold of it admirably under pressure and his distribution was equally astute.
After Sadiq Ibrahim tested the keeper Dheeraj Singh from a tight angle in the 20th minute, Rashid Alhassan and Isaac came up with a few long-range shots.
Left-back Sanjeev Stalin was having a torrid time as Ghana players were attacking in numbers in his side and hardly allowed him a breather. Finally, Ghana got their deserved breakthrough in the 43rd minute and it was no surprise that this goal came from India's left-side. After nice work by Sadiq in the right-flank, his low-drilled cross was only parried away by keeper Dheeraj's on-stretching right-hand into the path of Aiyah, who made no mistake in tucking it away from six yards.
India hardly threatened their goal in the opening half as Aniket Jadhav's free-kick was cleared by a defender in-front of the keeper and Borris Singh's weak left-foot shot was easily collected by their keeper Danlad Ibrahim.
It didn't take long for Samuel Fabin's side to double their lead. After exchanging some neat passes between them, Edmund Arko-Mensah was free on the left-side, but his initial cross was blocked. However, he got the ball again and laid it to the on-rushing Aiyah, who shot it directly with his left foot without taking a touch into the bottom left corner.
India's chances of making it to the knockout stages as one of the four third-placed sides virtually ended there.
In the 65th minute, Ibrahim Sulley almost caught the keeper off-guard, hitting a long-range shot from midfield which landed on the roof of the net, saving a major embarrassment for the keeper.
Finally, India showed a bit of fightback with a couple of long-range efforts by substitutes Rahim Ali and Lalengmawia, which was caught by their keeper Ibrahim without much trouble.
Danso, who came on for goal-scorer Aiyah in the second half, assured Ghana of three points in the 86th minute with a neat left-footed finish when he was one-on-one with the keeper. A couple of minutes later, Toku completed the rout, tapping home a rebound with his left foot after Danso's shot came off the far post as the home fans were left shell-shocked.
When the final whistle was blown, dejected Indian players fell to the ground, holding their face with tears in their eyes. Coach De Matos, however, will know that his young troops were well and truly beaten by a superior Ghana team and not much he could have done from the sidelines to change the outcome of the result.
Counter the attack
Ghana's well praised counter-attacking style of play was a bit too much for India to deal with on Thursday. Every time when the visitors won the ball, they surged forward in lightening speed, leaving Indian defenders clueless at times. The likes of Sadiq Ibrahim, Eric Aiyah and Arko-Mensah wreaked Indian defence time and again. Aiyah's second goal and Richard Danso's late goal in 87th minute was a result of Ghana catching India on the break.
Young Indian troops struggled to deal with the physical strength of their opponents throughout the match. Ghana were more stronger and fitter and hardly lost a duel to the Indian team. As the game progressed, hosts started to tire down quickly and the mistakes slowly started to creep in the Indian defence. Home coach Norton de Matos said, "In the dressing room, I realised my players were finished physically and second half proved it. When you are physically tired, then you are mentally drained too. That's how we made three silly mistakes in 2nd half."
lack of structure
A nearly non-existent youth structure and lack of a proper system to help with the transformation from the junior level to the senior level was evident in final group match. The opponents were organised, well positioned and the awareness of their teammates in the pitch was well evident throughout the match. When attacking or defending, Ghana maintained their organisation and did not lose their structure. De Matos said, "We don't have a football structure in place at the moment. These players are talented but they lack exposure."
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