Ghana too hot for Indians

Ghana too hot for Indians
It was a night of another loss for the Indian team but it also captured the undying spirit of the hosts. Against the might and ruthlessness of Ghana, India put up a brave face before enduring a crushing 0-4 defeat in their last Group A fixture of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.

However, despite the heartbreak, it would not be proper to reduce India’s maiden campaign in the Worlds to mere statistics. With their lively performances, the colts have triggered hope for Indian football. It would also not be wrong to say that India’s journey back to top echelons has begun on the right note. The crowd at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium has consistently grown, the number rising to 52,614 on Thursday, and lending their voices to the chants of "India, India"!

Ghana, the best team in Group A, finished with six points, the same as Colombia and the United States. Ghana made it to the pre-quarters as group toppers on goal difference and was followed by Colombia. The USA will have wait to know their fate.

Ghana was pushed to the wall by the spirited Indians in the first half. The home team admirably stood up to the challenge by showing impressive resilience against their blistering pace and power. The two-time champions had struggled with their finishing in the tournament but came into their own against the hosts.

Captain Eric Ayiah (44th minute, 52nd) scored a double before substitute Richard Danso (86th) and Emmanuel Toku (88th) scored within two minutes to add further gloss to the scoreline.

Ghana attacked through the flanks and their right winger Sadiq Ibrahim was exceptional with his speedy runs. Sanjeev Stalin had a torrid time containing him. Still, the Indian defence stuck to its task and made swift clearances. They kept Ghana at bay for 43 minutes. Not only that, to the delight of the fans, India made some thrilling runs to the rival half. But that was all they could muster.  

India survived some anxious moments in the beginning. Ayiah had tapped in the ball past Dheeraj Singh in the sixth minute, only to be ruled offside. Boris Singh then brought down Isaac Gyamfi at the edge of the box in the 33rd minute but Ayiah’s freekick went wide.

Anwar Ali, Jitendra Singh, Stalin and Dheeraj -- all were brutally stretched by Ghana but they steadfastly held on until the 44th minute when the determined visitors finally got the breakthrough. Ibrahim, charging down the right flank, beat Stalin to send in a low cross across the box. Dheeraj staved it away but Ayiah pounced on the rebound and firmly struck home.

The change of ends brought no respite for the Indians. Seven minutes into the second-half, Ghana doubled their lead. Jitendra made a faulty clearance off an Arko Mensah low cross. The ball came back to Mensah and this time he pushed it back to Ayiah who was at the edge of the box. The forward left-footed it to the lower right corner.

It was all but over for India. Successive goals by Dansu and Toku further demoralised the hosts, who struggled to lift themselves off the ground after the final whistle. Some broke down. But the cheers from the thousands in the stands must have lifted their drooping spirits for future contests.

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