After showing a superb fighting spirit in the first two matches and winning hearts, India on Thursday night lost focus in their third and final group league match against twice champions Ghana and went down 0-4 to their far superior opponents and crashed out of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here in New Delhi.
With their second win, Ghana took their tally to six points and reached the top of Group A while India, playing for the first time in the under-17 World Cup, by virtue of being hosts, failed to open their account in the tournament. The USA and Colombia also have the same number of points as Ghana, but the Americans and Colombians have one match left, against each other.
After putting up an unexpectedly remarkable fight against the USA and Columbia, India raised hopes with a positive play on Thursday as the match began. And they did well to finish the first half trailing by only one goal. But in the second half, they suddenly lost focus and some inexplicable defence lapses led to one goal after the other – three in all, in this half.
Eric Ayiah (43rd minute and 52nd), Richard Danso (86th), and Emmanuel Toku (87th) were the scorers for Ghana. India came close to score on a few occasions but it was not their day.
The lone goal for India in the three matches was scored by 16-year-old Indian midfielder Jeakson Thounaojam, against Colombia. The Indian team’s best performance came in this match; they even raised hopes of an upset win, such tenacity they showed.
But, overall, the Indian team put up an admirable show and despite being short in height against most of the players in the three opposing teams. They may not have had an advantage while going for the aerial ball, but they have the skill to go places.
In the first match of the day at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Mali defeated New Zealand 3-1 in a Group B encounter to advance to the Round of 16. Salam Jiddou (18th minute), Djemoussa Traore (50th), and Lassana N'Diaye (82nd) scored for Mali while Charles Spragg (72nd) got the consolation one for New Zealand on Thursday.
Mali were clearly the far superior team. In all, they took 10 shots at the goal while the Kiwis managed just two. Mali players’ ball possession was 61 per cent while New Zealand’s was 39 per cent.
With the three points Mali earned on Thursday evening, their tally went up to six points from three matches. Mali are now placed second to Paraguay (9 points from 3 matches) and both teams have progressed, leaving behind New Zealand (1 point) and Turkey (1 point).