Ghana make winning start

Ghana make winning start

Ghana, the two-time champions, belled a warning in the Under-17 World Cup with a comprehensive 1-0 victory over Colombia in the opening Group A encounter on Friday.

In front of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium’s thinly attended stands, intermittently filled by school children, Ghana and Colombia put up an impressive display of fast paced, intense, and skilled football. The two heavyweights at the under-17 level played every bit to the expectations and gave the tournament the start it deserved.

In fact, Colombia was better organised among the two and even dominated the ball possession but paid dearly for the missed chances. Ghana, on the other hand, grabbed the one chance that made the difference in the final scoreline.

If Colombia began a tad measured, Ghana opted for a free-flowing approach. In no time, the Black Starlets had crowded the Colombian half, a sight which was common during the first half.

Showing intent

Sadiq Ibrahim set Ghana’s intent into motion when his right-footed shot from outside the box missed the goal. Captain Eric Ayiah, who impressed with his playmaking throughout, too came close in the tenth minute from the left and Colombians backline was on its toes. Ibrahim had almost put Ghana ahead in the 12th off Gideon Mensah’s through ball, but was ruled offside.

An under pressure Colombia found some release through Leandro Campaz, who led the attack from the left wing. However, his attempted left-footed targets to the net, on counter-attack, were denied by goalkeeper Danlad Ibrahim.

The combination of Ayiah and Ibrahim finally broke the stalemate. Cashing on a lightning fast counter, Ayiah sent across a cross from the left and Ibrahim dashing from the right flank scored from close range. A rattled Colombia picked up the pace, but Ghana provided no leeway to lead 1-0 at half time.

Poor finish

On resumption, Colombia’s effort was evident but they continued to falter at the finish. Ghana, attempting to stretch the lead, threateningly lingered at the Colombian half, but could not succeed. The pairing of Ayiah and Ibrahim created an opening in the 49th minute.

The captain pounced on Ibrahim’s cross to hit from the right of the six-yard box, but it was wayward.

Colombia, stepping up their attack, came close to scoring on several occasions. However, their best chance in the second half came in the 81st minute when Deiber Caicedo received an excellent through ball from Yadir Meneses.

Caicedo then launched himself on a solo attempt from the right flank before releasing the ball with a right-footed shot but it missed the woodwork to the left.

With Ghana’s backline unrelenting, it turned out to be a barren second half. The final whistle got Ghana in a huddle before they broke into a dance.

The two teams have raised the bar high in the opener. India must be watching.

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