India begin historic campaign in the FIFA under-17 World Cup against USA today
India play USA in their first FIFA U-17 World Cup match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on October 6.
The biggest football extravaganza to be ever staged in India begins today amid promise that the FIFA U-17 World Cup will serve as a springboard to fulfill the aspirations of the country in the beautiful game.
Amidst all the razzmatazz and buoyancy, the World Cup is set to kick-off in grand fashion as Delhi and Mumbai play host to the opening four games. Making history will be 21 Indian teenagers, who will become the first Indian team to play in a FIFA World Cup.
From captain Amarjit Singh, Aniket Jadhav to midfielder wizard Komal Thatal, these youngsters will take centrestage today that has eluded every legend in country's football history. India will face USA in their opening match.
Once termed by FIFA as the 'sleeping giants of football' a change is finally reckoning Indian football that aims to bring back the glory days the likes of PK Banerjee and Chuni Goswami had once bestowed upon the country.
Expectations will be no less from these boys who have put in the hard work on the field. From European exposure tours to training camps in Goa and Bengaluru, the boys seem to have left no stone unturned in their bid to create a name for themselves.
Qualified by the virtue of being hosts, Indian team certainly has the added pressure of proving their mettle, knowing their path to glory is filled with difficulties.
Indian team, grouped with USA, Colombia and dark horses Ghana, will have a tough route to endeavor, starting with John Hackworth's American boys.
Captained by latest Werder Bremen signing Joshua Sargent, USA are strong contenders for the World Cup, besides the likes of Brazil and Spain.
Teaming up front with Sargent will be Paris Saint German's wonderkid Timothy Weah.
Son of former FIFA World Player of the Year and Liberia great George Weah, Timothy is highly rated back in US and will be a towering presence in the forward line.
But India's biggest threat comes in striker Sargent.
The 17-year-old also played at the U-20 World Cup for the USA earlier this year, making him the first US player since Freddy Adu in 2003 to play in the U-20 and U-17 World Cups in the same year.
Aware of the obvious threat, India coach de Matos says his side will try to contain USA's forward line and take any opportunity that comes their way.
"As a coach I would obviously like to have the kind of options USA has upfront. Josh and Weah are players who are serious threat to our defence but we have worked hard for this moment. We know we have a small possibility. USA is a strong team but we want to take that small opportunity and fight for it," he said ahead of the match.
"All three teams in our group are at a big level. But we have prepared well. The players know what they will face tomorrow but we will see how it goes. Football is unpredictable."
India's major concern comes from the fact that defender Boris Singh Thangjam misses out due to carried forward red card.
The right back picked up a red card against Iran in the AFC U-16 Championship in Goa last year.
"When I was selecting the team prior to the World Cup, I knew I will be without Boris. We were prepared for him not playing the first match and we have a replacement for him. We have two other players ready to take his position," de Matos said.
With more than 50, 000 crowd expected to get behind the Indian side and captain Amarjit Singh Kiyam urges fans to support the Blues.
"Tomorrow I am going to live my dream. We play the first match against USA and it is a huge responsibility for us to deliver. I saw many ups and downs during our journey for the World Cup. We need the fans to support us and cheer for us," the midfielder said.