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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Hosts India Set for Historic FIFA World Cup Debut Against USA



More than 50,000 people will be present at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on the opening day of the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup on Friday, when hosts India will make their world cup debut across all age groups, male or female.

Abhimanyu Sen

More than 50,000 people will be present at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on the opening day of the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup on Friday, when hosts India will make their world cup debut across all age groups, male or female. The excitement is expected to touch fever pitch once the referee kicks-off the second game of the day.

The historic moment, something all of India has been waiting for and talking about, will be graced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, though he is not expected to stay for the 8 PM kick-off, which is when the Indian colts will be in action.

The Blue colts, now coached by the Portuguese Luis Norton de Matos, have travelled extensively over the last two years playing a variety of opponents in the process, and one of the teams they faced was USA, who beat them 4-0 in Goa just over a year ago.

There is no doubt that this is a very big moment for Indian football and the task on hand will be daunting.

USA have played in all the editions of this tournament previously, and with the likes of U-20 star Josh Sargent leading the attack, the task on hand only gets harder.

“It is a huge moment for India to be participating in the World Cup. But this is only the first step towards the future,” De Matos warned while speaking to the media on the eve of the match.

“The players know very well what they are facing tomorrow, but football is a game where anything can happen. We have to prepare and know the strengths of our opponents and weaknesses,” de Matos added.

The Indian colts will be led by the midfielder Amarjit Singh, who along with the likes of Jeakson Singh, Suresh Singh, Aniket Jadhav and Komal Thatal will be expected to shoulder the burden of troubling the US defensive line.

But more than the attack, it is the defence that will be under scrutiny. India will begin without right back Boris Singh who is carrying over a red card offence from earlier, and it is up to the likes of Sanjeev Stalin, Anwar Ali and the USA based Namit Deshpande, who will have to hold strong in front of the goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh.

“The process starts at the back and it will be very crucial to defend well. Everyone will have to defend, because that is the way to get a result,” said the coach on the eve of the opening game.

“We create chances, but unlike more established teams we take more chances to find the back of the net.” The need of the hour is teamwork to ensure the World Cup dream does not leave a bitter taste in the mouth.

“We have made our sacrifices and worked hard to reach this place, and now the time has come for us to go and give it our best shot,” said a confident Amarjit before he heads out for one final practice session ahead of the big game.

“It is essential to not panic in the game because otherwise it will be difficult to replicate the things we have done in training,” the coach concluded. “USA are a very strong team in comparison to the Indian team. They have very potent attack, but we will work hard and try to make a game of it and make India proud.”

USA, though will not be taking anything for granted against the hosts. “India are a very hardworking team and the home conditions coupled with the massive home support is bound to help them up their game on the day,” John Hackworth noted.

One of the aspects that might be of concern to the visiting team will be the local weather conditions, but the young forward Josh Sargent very calmly dodged that bullet saying, “Last year we got used to the conditions pretty quickly and we expect the same this time as well.”

“We go into the game as favourites, but we know that India are a good team who will work hard all through the game,” he added.

When asked if it would be one sided affair against the hosts defence, Hackworth pointed out, “India’s forward line has some exciting talent and unless we can contain them it will be difficult for us to eke out a result in our favour.”

“When we played India last year, we won, but the score line is not a true suggestion or estimate of the true potential of the hosts,” quipped Hackworth.

Irrespective of the result on the opening day, the much-awaited debut at the world stage is likely to be the reason, world football’s ‘Sleeping Giant’ finally wakes up.

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