Hosts India bowed out of the FIFA under -17 World Cup after being outclassed by a mighty Ghana 0-4 in their final Pool A match at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Thursday. India lost all their three matches but have impressed by playing a standard of football far better than expected.
A brace by Ghana skipper Eric Aiyah, followed by goals by substitutes Richard Danso and Emmanuel Toku, saw Ghana through to the Round of 16. The Indian Colts have won the hearts of their supporters but the loss by the biggest margin in this competition saw them sign off with tears in their eyes.
The Boys in Blues' valiant outings had led many to dream of an upset win, but that was too much to expect against the Black Starlets, who finally came into their own in this match. In the end, the hosts put in all the effort in the first half but lost steam in the second, as their legs could no longer take the fight.
“The team played the first 45 minutes like a 90 minutes match, and were very tired in the second half. When you are tired mistakes start to happen,” explained Indian coach Luis Norton del Matos post the match.
The match against Ghana was going to be the hosts' sternest test so far and it proved to be so. The Black Starlets showcased more experience and better finishing. Thanks to this prolific outing, Ghana ended on top of the pool with Colombia second followed by United States.
“Ghana's every single player was capable of deciding the game. When you play a team like that after two hard games, it is not that easy and that is the reality of things. We were very weak today,” Matos said.
The Indians looked all gritty and showed positive intent in the first half with end-to-end game on display. They even created a move in the very first minute of the game, but without reaping any result. Coach Matos had opted for four changes from the previous game against Colombia opting the 4-3-3 formation against the stronger, speedier Ghana.
The first 40 minutes saw Ghana missing the long shots and looking a bit tardy, as shots went over the goal or wide. However, their counter attacks eventually started gaining momentum and Indian goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh was yet again a busy man under the bar. India had three shots at the goal in first half compared to Ghana's 14. Midfielder Sadiq Ibrahim dodged Sanjeev Stalin to hit from an acute angle only to be thwarted by Dheeraj Singh but an unmarked Aiyah scored his first goal in the 43rd minute on a rebound.
The second goal from Aiyah came in the 52nd minute as Indian defence was found wanting. Aiyah scored via a low shot at far post which was impossible for Dheeraj to fend off. This was like a final nail in the coffin as it put the match beyond the Indians' reach. The passage of play after the second goal was uninteresting as Indians could not find a way to create moves towards the goal. By the time the third and fourth goals were scored in 86th and 87th minute, the Indians had lost all hope and fight.
The Indian coach, however, was positive about the team's future. I was pleasantly surprised by this team in these three games. The learning process has to start. I am sure this generation is for future.