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India’s last group match turned out to be their biggest defeat in the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Ghana captain Eric Ayiah scored in the 43rd and 52nd minute before second half substitutes Richard Danso and Emmanuel Toku scored in the 86th and 87th minute respectively. The home side hence ended its sojourn in the U-17 World Cup bottom of their group table with one goal to their name.
The match can be best described as a story of two halves. In the first, India were making Ghana toe a line. The home side started the game aggresively, earning a corner within the first 10 seconds. It was taken short and the ball was driven into the box from a tight angle, the Ghanaian keeper collected it easily. The physical superiority of the African side started showing only towards the end of the first 10 minutes.
The first instance of this was a piercing run made through the middle by Sadiq Ibrahim. He found himself one on one with Dheeraj Moirangthem and passed it to Eric Ayiah who only had to turn it into the practically unguarded post. India were saved only by the linesman flagging Ayiah offside but that was a warning. Sanjeev Stalin and Anwar Ali were no match for Ibrahim’s pace.
In a bid to avoid Boris Singh, Ghana started concentrating their attacks down the right flank. As it turned out, Ibrahim was able to leave Suresh Wangjam biting the dust. He and Ayiah started creating many precarious situations for India. But every time, the home side would launch the ball forward, Boris being the player at the end of those hopeful passes most of the time.
That was the narrative for the first half, save for its last three minutes. Ghana were winning the second balls, their counter attacks were quick and created clear chances more often than not. But India never shied away from a chance to attack. The diminutive Boris Singh would cut and skip past the Ghanians and India would end up creating three chances for themselves. None of these produced a shot on target, a marked difference to what India got in the match against Colombia. In the end, though, it was the superior pace of Sadiq Ibrahim that cost India a chance to go into half time with a clean sheet. He darted down the right flank and found enough space to turn in a low pass. Dheeraj, who had needed some attention to his right leg just a couple of minutes earlier, dived to get a palm to the ball but he only ended up putting right in the path of the oncoming Ayiah. Ghana were 1-0 up and the half time whistle approached soon.
Ghana started the second half all guns blazing. Ibrahim and Ayiah stretched and ravaged the Indian defence and the Africans doubled their lead in the 52nd minute. The physical and emotional stress of playing against three top class teams in a space of two weeks was starting to show. As the Ghanaians celebrated, the Indian players were looking at each other for answers or crouching dejectedly. It was not a new situation for them. India were 2-0 down at one point against the United States. But India were not bossed around in any of their previous matches the way they had been here. They fended off consecutive waves of Ghanaian attacks after that and finally caved in the last 10 minutes of the match. Richard Danso and substitute Emamanuel Toku scored in the 86th and 87th minute and India were down and out. The final whistle came and with that ended India’s adventure in the FIFA U-17 World Cup.