FIFA U17 World Cup: India Get Reality Check Against Ghana, But Experience Will Strengthen Team
India were completely outplayed in all the areas and while coach Luis Norton de Matos blamed the fatigue factor, the gulf in class between the two teams on the pitch was evident right from the word go.
Ghana had 60% possession and 27 attempts at goal, while India could muster only 6 attempts.
Sanjeev Stalin, who has been one of the star performers for the team, was made to look pedestrian by the pace of the Ghanian wingers, with Sadiq Ibrahim going past him at will.
Stalin later admitted that he had never played with someone so fast, and Ghana was the toughest team he had faced till now. de Matos again made the point that Ghana was always going to be a tough opponent.
“After two hard games, I knew it would be complicated to play Ghana. African teams in this age group are the strongest. Every player is a match winner for Ghana. I knew we would suffer in the third game, first two matches were the best chances we had.”
“At half-time, I got a sense that physically these boys had played 90 minutes, and once your body starts tiring, the brain also stops working,” de Matos added.
The fast paced game played right into Ghana’s hands, adding to the technical superiority they already had over India. The hosts again conceded right before half-time, and did not look like equalizing at any stage of the game.
Once Eric Ayiah got his and Ghana’s second goal, it was pretty much game over for de Matos and his boys. India’s star player Komal Thatal was benched for the second consecutive game, and the coach defended the decision, saying “If you think Komal was the perfect player to win duels against physically strong teams like Colombia and Ghana, then you are a very good coach!”
de Matos further stressed that this tournament was only the beginning and that football has a long way to go in India.
“We need these failures to progress. This is what top level football is all about, India was the only team that didn’t have to play qualifying and it showed. This generation is fantastic for the future. I am proud of each and every player. You have coaches of USA, Colombia, Ghana, England praising the team’s organization, this shows that this is an intelligent bunch of players. This experience is stronger than the I-league,” de Matos said.
The Portugese is right indeed, football still has a long way to go in the country, but the U17 team showed that India can play at the top level.
de Matos cleared the air surrounding his future, saying that he will have meetings with the AIFF on whether he would stay or not, but it is very likely that he would stick around with the team, which is set to be included in the I-league.
The team has shown the country that India can indeed play the beautiful game and this generation might well become the torchbearers for Indian football in the time to come!