FIFA U-17 WC: Physical test awaits India against Colombia

Colombia presents a daunting challenge but India has nothing to lose. It has embarked on a learning process and this tournament is an important phase in that venture.

India’s Komal Thatal will be up against a different challenge in the form of Colombia on Monday.   -  AP

The shabby ambience that 'greeted’ the faithful fans of Indian football stood out sorely on an otherwise historic day at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Friday.

“We are not ready to host big sporting events,” hissed an angry expatriate. He had flown from Canada to cheer the Indian team in its debut match of the 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup but the utter disregard for those who turn up to cheer the national team left him in a state of despondency.

India gave a good account of itself against United States, conceding three goals and coming close to knocking in two. “I had told the team not to carry any baggage and not to play under any pressure. I am proud of their performance,” remarked the All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel. He did take note of the shortcomings on the organisational front but confessed some things were beyond his control.

Fans have perennially been at the receiving end in India. From the task of procuring tickets to finally occupying his seat, a fan endures a painful experience, which begins with dealing with the stifling security to battling with the organisers, who promise the moon but don’t deliver even drinking water.

The stadia administrator obviously earned negative points for the state of the Nehru Stadium. Considered the pride of India’s sporting arenas, the venue let the occasion and the nation down. If there was a saving grace it was in the gutsy show by skipper Amarjit Singh and his boys.

An inspiring performance under the bar by Dheeraj Singh showcased the hard work by the Indian colts. If they were overawed, the fears were dispelled after an agonising first quarter when they hardly touched the ball. And then the trend altered and India made its presence felt. The ball possession percentage may not mean much because US scored thrice and missed as many times. It was the spirit with which the Indians contested that earned them appreciation.

Suresh Singh, the untiring midfielder, conveyed the excitement well. "We are all set for the Colombia game and we'll give it everything. We won't disappoint you, we won't disappoint India. We need to rectify our mistakes and move on. Winning and losing are part and parcel of the game. We are all set for the next game and we're raring to give it a shot.”

Colombia, having tasted defeat at the hands of a superior Ghana, is expected to come hard at India. The height factor and the overall endurance are likely to confront India when it meets Colombia. The opponent presents a daunting challenge but India has nothing to lose. It has embarked on a learning process and this tournament is an important phase in that venture.

The team, promised coach Luis Norton de Matos, will fight. “The team will give Colombia a run for their money. Colombia are tough opponents and they possess the necessary elements to hurt us. We have to be on our toes throughout and have to focus on the task at hand. They (Colombia) will also give us a tough physical fight but we are ready for it.”

The Indian footballers are ready for it. Hope the organisers too are…

Race to the top

Ghana and United States, having won their opening fixtures, will meet in a much-awaited clash of the group. The winner would secure a knockout berth from this contest which would be a clash between the United States’ potent forward line and Ghana’s dour wall of defence.