With the likes of the giants from the American and African continents drawn alongside each other, the group A was definitely not the place to be in for one of the newly growing sides in the beautiful game, India. Group A was definitely one of the groups of death as USA, Ghana and Colombia became the competitors. Having participated 15 times out of the 16 u-17 World Cup editions, USA were certainly one of the sides to look out and also since they failed to qualify out of the group stage last time.
On the other hand, qualifying as the host nation, a lot of expectations were place on the home ground especially from the Indian fans. Along with them, the Ghanaians and the Columbians entered the competition courtesy of their success in CAF U-17 and SAF U-17 championships respectively. With Ghana ending as the runners up of the U-17 African Cup of Nations and Columbia’s fourth-place finish at the South American U-17 Football Championship, both the Nations ensured their path to the India.
Just as it was expected before the start of the tournament, the matches between the three teams in the group were a very tight affair as the group witnessed two 1-0 results involving Ghana, Columbia and the United States. In fact, it was expected that more than two teams would qualify from this group and it happened exactly after the run of games.
Image courtesy: FIFA.com
Winners of the group | Ghana:
As there was not much difference between the three teams, it was tough to decide the winner of the group just after two games and everyone had to wait until the final set of games to come to a conclusion. With India already losing their first two games they looked to be the team to be exiting the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017. Having won their opening game of the season against Columbia thanks to a lone goal from Ibrahim, the African nation lost their second game to the United States of America.
Though it looked like it was going to be the United States of America who would top the group having taken up 6 points from the first two games, a 3-1 defeat to Colombia and 4-0 victory of Ghana over India changed the plot. USA dropped from first to third place because of Ghana’s higher goal difference and Columbia’s better Head-to-Head record.
Though Ghana had lost their in the second game versus USA, they came back pretty brilliantly against India and scored four past the Indians. It should be said that defence has been the key for Ghana though they scored four goals in a single game. Conceding just once in three games is certainly a great achievement and this could be the key should they aim of travelling further in the tournament. Eric Ayiah is the leading goal scorer for the side as they have scored just five goals in the three games.
The other teams to qualify – Colombia and United States of America
The qualification for the next stages was left till the final games of the group as the USA were the only team to have qualified courtesy of their early wins. However the match ups between Ghana – India and USA – Colombia involved plot twists as to who will finish as the winners and runners of the group. Surprisingly the USA were pulled down in the pecking order as Colombia and Ghana climbed the ladder.
Winning their final game against the USA, Colombia finished as the runners of the group after finishing with same stats as their opponents in points, goals scored, conceded and the goal difference. It was left to the better head to head record to decide the fate and as Colombia had won their game against the USA, they were placed second. Juan Penaloza of Colombia is the leading scorer from the Group with three goals.
Key Matches/Crucial encounters:
India 1-2 Colombia
One of the better performances by India in the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 was the game against Colombia where they showed resurgence after their 3-0 loss at the hands of USA. India after conceding just after the beginning of the second half equalised through Jeakson Singh only for Colombia to score again. Though this may have hurt the hearts of million followers from India, it was a well earned 3 points by Colombia.
Ghana 4-0 India
Coming into the last game of the Group, Ghana needed something big against the Indians to qualify to the last 16 with the United States already qualified. Also locked with 3 points against their South American counter-part, the African Nation needed something more than just 3 points and they got it through goals when they scored four past the hosting nation.
United States 1-3 Colombia
While Ghana were winning 4-0 against the home side, the Colombians also produced a sublime display as they defeated the US. The 3-1 defeat meant that the United States were pushed down the order as both Ghana and Colombia moved up. The victory also meant that the three sides – Ghana, Colombia and the United States qualified from the group.