New Delhi, Oct 5:
Football minnows India stand on the cusp of history as the hosts are set to make their debut in a FIFA event against a formidable USA in a group match of the U-17 World Cup, which begins here tomorrow.
India qualified automatically for the event as hosts. They have prepared well with All India Football Federation sending the players for training tours in Europe and a tournament in Mexico but the home side are clear underdogs.
Man to man, USA are clearly the better team in the Group A match at the refurbished Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Most of the American players ply their trade in Major League Soccer youth teams and a couple of them are set to play in top European clubs as well.
India would enjoy the home advantage and captain Amarjit Singh and his team-mates have promised to be competitive at the showpiece event. The feat of playing in India’s first-ever FIFA tournament should spur them to bring out their best and deliver something worthy of a host country. They will also be the first Indian players to feature in any World Cup.
More than that, odds are heavily against India tomorrow as the players lacked competitive matches. Besides, they didn’t attend any professional academies unlike their American counterparts. The Indian team was assembled in just seven months by head coach Luis Norton de Matos who took over in March after the sacking off German Nicolai Adam.
Adam, who was made India U-17 coach in February 2015, built a team by scouting talent from across the country through trials and tournaments but got the boot early this year after a reign of two years for allegedly abusing players.
Portuguese de Matos made several changes in the team, bringing in at least half a dozen players in key positions.
India: Dheeraj Singh, Prabhsukhan Gill, Sunny Dhaliwal, Jitendra Singh, Anwar Ali, Sanjeev Stalin, Hendry Antonay, Namit Deshpande, Suresh Singh, Ninthoinganba Meetei, Amarjit Singh Kiyam, Abhijit Sarkar, Komal Thatal, Lalengmawia, Jeakson Singh, Nongdamba Naorem, Rahul Kannoly Praveen, Md. Shahjahan, Rahim Ali, Aniket Jadhav.(PTI)