With just two days to go for the Fifa Under-17 World Cup in India, the palpable energy around the home team is heartening.
As the host country, India got direct qualification for their debut Fifa World Cup appearance. But the challenge will be to get through to the knockout phase, with Ghana, USA and Colombia in the same group.
The stakes are also high for the 21-member Indian squad which has been put together after trials and camps for almost three years. Training under foreign coaches – first under Nicolai Adams and then Luis Norton de Matos – and travelling to Europe and South America to play overseas and get experience, there has been considerable investment in the U-17 team.
Know your U-17 squad
The first Indians playing in a Fifa World Cup
According to a report in the Economic Times, almost Rs 18 crore were spent in the last couple of years to get the Indian team ready for the World Cup on home soil.
But how has the team fared in the lead up to Indian football’s big moment?
Since August 2015, India have scored 259 goals according to AIFF’s match reports. In some matches, they’ve trounced their opponents by huge deficits, winning at least 17 of the 100 matches by a margin of five goals or more. On the other hand, they have been beaten by a similar scoreline only twice. By and large, their losses have been narrow defeats.
Here are all the big numbers:
However, their form of late hasn’t quite been as good. For the last one year, they’ve had a spate of losses, but admittedly to more formidable opponents. Their best stretch of form was between May to August 2016, with only three losses from 16 games.
However, most of these wins came against club teams. On the international stage, India’s record isn’t as envious. Of the 27 international games they’ve played in this period, they’ve won only five and have lost 15.
Some of the team’s players have grabbed the opportunity to play for India. Komal Thatal, Aniket Jadhav and Aman Chetri have all scored more than 25 goals in the past two years. Chetri will miss the tournament due to injury.
Among their top scorers over the past two years, keep your eyes peeled for Amarjit Kiyam, Abhijit Sarkar, Ninthoinganba Meetei, Sanjeev Stalin, Suresh Wangjam and Jadhav. All have scored at least 10 goals.