On Wednesday evening at 17:00 IST, Navi Mumbai will witness a truly historic tie, between two of Africa's final three representatives on Indian soil.
Ghana, coached by Fabin Samuel and Niger, under the tutelage of Teimogo Soumaila, will lock horns at the DY Patil Stadium in their quest to book a place in the quarter-final of the Federation International de Football Associations's (FIFA) U17 World Cup. The winner of the clash will face the side which emerges victorious from the tie between Iraq and Mali, on Saturday.
Ghana and Niger had faced each other earlier this year in the 2017 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations at Gabon. Ghana got the better of Niger in the semi-final of the tournament, which saw the Black Starlets defeat the Junior Menas 6-5 on penalties as a result could not be decided at the end of 90 minutes. Speaking on facing the West Africans again, Samuel commented, ''It’s going to be tough definitely because we (Ghana) drew (against Niger) in Africa. They too have the belief that they can compete against us tomorrow. The game will be difficult and tricky because we know each other so well. But even though it seems tricky, I think we shall be through.''
On being asked if the two-time FIFA U17 World Cup champions are favourites to clinch a spot in the final eight, Samuel responded, ''If you look at the round of 16 matches played yesterday, you cannot guess the result. Just because we’ve won matches earlier doesn't mean we will walk over there (the field). For example, Paraguay- they won all their matches but if you look at the scoreline yesterday you realize that you cannot underrate any team. You have to prepared and just play your best.''
On the other hand, Niger look confident to turn the past records in their favour come 18th October. Being the only debutant side of this edition's youth championship to proceed to the pre-quarter finals, coach Tiemogo Soumaila was confident that his side would put up a tough test for the Ghanaians.
''Before coming into the World Cup, we’d already played two friendly games with Ghana where we lost the two matches on the same 2-0 scoreline. We have learnt a lot from the two matches. Playing these matches before the 2017 Africa U17 Cup of Nations was an additional experience. From two losses of 2-0 we brought it to 0-0 in the tournament before losing on penalties and this time we hope it’s a victory,'' he expressed.
Considering the past records, it's Ghana who head into the match as favourites. However, gaffer Tiemogo isn't of the same opinion and believes that the match winner would be the one with the higher mental toughness. ''We have nothing to lose; we have all to win in this match. And I don’t think it is everyone who says that Ghana will win (tomorrow).
The upcoming match won’t be the same as earlier. It is going to be a close match, for sure. An open match, I believe. This match is going to be about mentality. It will be more about mental characteristics than tactical or physical characteristics,'' he concluded.