It would be one of those days on the soccer field when the underdog clashes against a top contender in the beautiful game, Soccer. Minnows India take on a formidable US team in their opening group fixture of the Under 17 FIFA World Cup at Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium on Friday. The match is scheduled to commence at 8 PM.
The match is being dubbed as one of the biggest matches in Indian football history as for the very first time an Indian team, senior or junior is making its debut at a major international event.
Thousands soccer frenzy fans shall throng to the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium with the hope that the young turks put up a stellar show against a much stronger North American opposition.
The India U-17 football squad will be eager to script their own fairy tale when the FIFA U-17 World Cup gets rolling here on Friday. The bunch of 21 talented but nervous teenagers will script history by just stepping on the turf at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here for their campaign opener against the US as they will be the first Indian team to take part in a FIFA tournament.
India has been placed in Group A alongside the US, South American giants Colombia and two-time winners Ghana. The Indian boys will face the Americans on October 6 before locking horns with Colombia and Ghana on October 9 and October 12, respectively.
However, despite having virtually no chances of advancing to the knockout stages, the hosts are determined to put up a strong challenge. The uphill battle will start against the US on Friday evening.
India being the hosts automatically qualified for the event, and have never before been part of any FIFA World Cup campaign. All India Football Federation made sure that India makes a strong debut at the showpiece event as it has invested more than 15 crores on the team, sending them to four continents, 18 countries to play more than 100 matches in the last three years.
For offensive, India will rely on striker Aniket Jadhav and winger Komal Thatal. It will also help that right-back Boris Singh Thangjam who casually enjoys powering forward. The midfield will be dealt by skipper Amarjit Singh Kiyam and Suresh Singh Wangjam - the backbone of the team.
Not known as a footballing nation, US nonetheless have a formidable team. They have participated in 15 of the 16 editions of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, having only missed out in 2013. Their best performance came at New Zealand 1999, where they came fourth. US finished runners-up to Mexico at the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship in Panama in May, which was enough to book a spot at the U-17 World Cup.Indian Coach’s take
Rank-outsiders India may have a "small percentage" of winning their tournament opener in the FIFA U-17 World Cup against what he expects to be an attacking USA team, coach Luis Norton de Matos said on Thursday.
Indian coach's take
"USA and for that matter, Ghana and Colombia in our group are big sides, top-level teams. We know we have a small percentage of winning against the US but you never know what will happen in a game of football," de Matos told reporters at the match-eve press conference here."We will prepare well for this small percentage and try to make these small possibilities count. We want to fight as a team and with help from the 12th man (the home supporters) we hope we can compete against them," he added.
Portuguese de Matos said India, making their debut in the FIFA U-17 showpiece event, would look to be a strong defensive unit and hit on counter attacks through quick transitions from defence to offence.
"I would like to have an effective defence as the US is very strong in attack. They have the No. 9 (Josh Sargent) and Timothy (Weah) and Andrew Carleton, they are very good attackers. They are a physical side also and they worked very hard. So, it will be a tough job for us," the India coach, who took over in March this year said.
"My players know how to play against the US. We have seen video footages of how they play. We will try to make a game and match them on the field tomorrow," he added.
Sargent is one of the most talked about young talents in the US. He was part of the US team that reached the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea this year. He is set to join the Bundesliga (German League) side Werder Bremen next year when he turns 18.
"My players know the importance of good defence. If you have a good defence you can win matches. If you don't have a good defence you will concede goals and lose matches. Offense is important but we have to build on good defence," he said.