India in FIFA U17 World Cup: What to expect from next opponent Colombia?

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The hosts will face the South American nation in their second match and it will not be a small hurdle.

After putting up a valiant display against the United States of America in the first match of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, India will be facing Colombia in their second test on Monday. Even though it was well known that qualifying to the next round is a distant dream for India, most fans hoped that India would at least be able to open their account in their first tryst with the top competition.

If there was one learning from Friday’s Colombia – Ghana tie in the capital, it was that the African country is in a different league altogether. Hence, if India wants to take home a point, it needs to bag that in the second match.

So, how did the Colombian outfit look like in their first test? For the majority of the match, they were dominated by the Black Starlets and the score-line was too flattering for the losing side as Ghana missed a number of sitters in the opening half an hour.

Abhijit Sarkar Chris Goslin India U17 USA U17 2017 U17 World Cup

The men in yellow lined up in a 4-2-3-1, though they changed it to a 4-3-3 occasionally while going forward. Deyman Cortes started upfront, but it was the left-winger Leandro Campaz who looked the most dangerous, cutting inside from the flanks and testing the custodian. Brayan Gomez struggled initially in the number 10 role while Andres Perera was impressive as the midfield pivot.

While Ghana looked uber-quick in counters, Colombia were calm in their passing. They saw more of the ball, maintaining 56% possession in a tie where they were the second best side. This is a major difference with India, who despite growing into the game, found it difficult to dictate proceedings and except for a handful of occasions, were not able to weave through more than three-four forward passes.

Another trend, which will continue throughout the tournament, is the physical advantage the opponents will have against India. It made life difficult for the Blue Colts on Friday evening, as youngsters like Komal Thatal, Suresh Wangjam and Sanjeev Stalin found it difficult to run past their markers. Colombia, on the other hand, didn’t look inferior to Ghana on this metric, which means Amarjit and co. will have to come up with a better plan to deal with them.

Goalkeeper Dheeraj Moirangthem was the best player for Matos’s side against USA, parrying away four on-target shots. “The goalkeeper made several saves in the opening 20 minutes. He was exceptional on the night,” Jack Hackworth, the USA coach, remarked after the match. Going by the opening match, Monday will once again be another busy day in the office for the amicable Manipur lad. Orlando Restrepo’s boys looked trigger happy, taking 18 shots in the tie, even though only three of them were on target.

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Another key takeaway from the Colts’ game was their relative lack of game-time compared to American peers. While Stalin et al. have only played the AFC U-16 championship last year, their next opponents had to face the mighty Latin American nations to book a berth. In the 2017 U-17 continental championship, which also served as the gateway to the World Cup, Colombia had beaten Ecuador, Uruguay and Paraguay and had drawn with Venezuela and Chile.

With their last game against the USA being a potential second place decider, the coach may want to ring in a few changes on Monday, which can make life easier for Matos’s outfit. Midfielder Etilso Martinez has a yellow card and is the first name on the list of players who can get dropped.

Even then, India earning a point in the fixture would be counted as a major upset. But you can't blame the fans for dreaming! 

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