By Samindra Kunti, New Delhi, India
October 12 – Hosts India must beat Ghana in their final group A game to keep their World Cup dreams alive. Brazil, France and England, all undefeated, have emerged as early favourites.
“The only thing we know is they are the toughest,” said Jeakson Singh who scored India’s first-ever World Cup goal against Colombia last Monday. “They are very physical.”
India will enter new territory tonight in taking on an African opponent for the first time. The Black Starlets suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat against the United States and face a must-win situation, complicating India’s task at hand.
India’s Blue Colts were defeated in their opening game by the United States 3-0 before succumbing to a narrow 2-1 loss to Colombia. India may be without influential pair Amarjit Kiyam, the captain, and Anwar Ali, central defender, due to injuries. A healthy crowd is expected at New Delhi’s Nehru Stadium for the crunch game with Ghana, but ticketing remains fraught, leaving plenty of fans frustrated at the sight of empty seats.
In a statement the tournament’s local organising committee repeated their earlier stance. “There are contractual obligations with the Hosting Association, all the participating teams, all the 13 commercial partners of the Tournament, the host broadcaster, the signatories of host city, stadium and training site agreements and other stakeholders with which there are contracts with regards to the Tournament, to provide tickets,” read the statement. “All the tickets that have been put up for sale, are the maximum number of tickets that can be sold at each venue discounting these obligations.”
With the final round of group matches coming up at the U-17 World Cup, Brazil, France and England have all booked their places for the round of 16. The early contenders have looked in fine form and will seek a deep run into the tournament. Brazil dispatched North Korea 2-0 in their second game in Kochi, England edged past CONCACAF champions Mexico 3-2 in round 2 in Kolkata and France defeated Japan 2-1 in their second appearance in Guwahati.
The United States and Paraguay also enjoy a 100% record. The group stages conclude on Saturday October 14, with the first knock-out matches slated two days later.
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