New Delhi: India are bracing up for another tough test against Ghana here on Thursday as they need a win by a big margin to keep their hopes alive for qualification to the Round-of-16 of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
India have suffered two losses from as many games in Group A, against the United States (0-3) and Colombia (1-2) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. The US lead the group with six wins, while Ghana and Colombia have three points each.
Hence, India will not only have to win by a big margin but also hope that Colombia lose to the US by a big margin in the other match of the day. If the two teams end up with same number of points, goal difference will be taken into consideration.
Luis Norton de Matos' boys have, however, won hearts all over for their brave show against higher-ranked 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.
With ambition running high in the squad, the colts are aiming for nothing less than a win that would eventually propel them into contention of progression.
"We will go for nothing less than a win. We have shown the world that we belong on the same page as them and now we want to show that we can win against them," insisted head coach Matos.
"Ghana will be a physical as well as a mental challenge for us. They (Ghana) are a strong physical team who are quick on the ball. We would have to be on our toes for the entirety of the match, if we are to secure a win," he added.
"However, the boys are ready for the challenge that will be thrown in front of them. We will give it our all and aim to create history once again."
Central midfielder and skipper Amarjit Singh added: "We have the utmost respect for our opponents but we will give them a very tough fight, even tougher than we gave Colombia.
"It is a matter of survival and we will do anything to go into the next round."
Ghana like to play fast football, using the pacy flank players Sadiq Ibrahim and Aminu Mohammed. Captain Eric Ayiah is a dangerous customer up front. To contain these two will demand superb performances from India's backline of Boris Singh, Namit Deshpande, Anwar Ali and Sanjeev Stalin. India's goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem will also have to be on guard.
Jeakson and Amarjit will start in midfield, while right-winger Ninthoinganba Meetei has earned his place. Attacking midfielder Abhijit Sarkar is also a certainty and the battle for the left wing spot will be between Rahul Kannoly or Komal Thatal.
It is also not clear whom Matos will put up front. It looks like Rahim Ali will earn second consecutive chance ahead of Aniket Jadhav.
Mohun Bagan academy product Rahim impressed with his pressing against Colombia and Matos may field him again from the start against Ghana defenders Gideon Acquah, Gideon Mensah and Abdul Yusif and create promblems for goalkeeper Danlad Ibrahim.
Goalkeeper Dheeraj called for even more support from India crowd against Ghana.
"Against Ghana we will need a lot of support. We will give it our very best on the pitch. I expect all to be cheering for us like they have done for us. We won't disappoint them. Come and back the blue," he said.
Must win for Mali, New Zealand, Turkey in Group B
Mali, New Zealand and Turkey face must win contests in their respective Group B encounters while already qualified Paraguay will look to end the first round on a winning note at the FIFA U-17 World Cup on Thursday.
Turkey who are at the bottom of the group, will face table-toppers Paraguay here. Mali, who are at the second spot, will take on New Zealand who are currently seated third in the table.
Mali will be safely through to the knock-out stages along with Paraguay if they can clinch a victory against New Zealand. A draw will also be enough for the Africans if Paraguay beat Turkey in the other match.
For New Zealand, a victory will assure them a spot in the Round of 16 while a draw will leave them hoping for a Paraguay win.
For Turkey, no less than a win will do. But even a victory may not be enough if Mali beat the Kiwis.
Even in case of a New Zealand win, the second placed team will be decided on goal difference.
Mali will be high on confidence after their 3-0 drubbing of Turkey in their previous Group B game here.
New Zealand earlier drew 1-1 with Turkey, playing without their regular skipper Max Mata, who missed their last match because of two yellow cards he received in their tournament opener.
Paraguay have defeated Mali and New Zealand and will be looking to end the group stage with an all win record.
Turkey, on the other hand, will be looking to register their first win and keep their chances alive after being beaten 3-0 by Mali in their last game.