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India earned direct qualification for the tournament being the host nation and will start off with a match with USA.

With everything in place for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, all eyes now turn to hosts India as they take on USA in their first ever game at an international football tournament. Having earned direct qualification by virtue of being hosts, team India will be carrying the hope of over a billion people as they enter the arena at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi.

Despite FIFA’s rejection of the Indian government’s proposal for an opening ceremony, the organisers have decided to have a small ceremony before the event kicks off to mark a historic moment in Indian football. FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura and head of FIFA tournaments Jaime Yarza will be part of the spectators on Friday along with a slew of high profile dignitaries.

The occasion will also be graced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as confirmed by AIFF Chief Praful Patel. Patel, who invited PM Modi to attend the opening match last week, was quoted by PTI as saying, “FIFA is very clear on this, FIFA only says don’t do it on the actual field of play. It’s (opening ceremony) happening tomorrow and the prime minister is coming, there will be a little ceremony.”

Expecting a turnout of 50,000 from India vs USA match on Friday, Patel said, “There will be a lot of children from some chosen schools. It will be a strong home support for our team.”

So how do a young Indian football squad stand as they take on a powerhouse of football?

With the All India Football Federation spending more than Rs 15 crores on the team to send them to 18 countries and play more than 100 matches in the last three years, the Indian team has till date played more than 50 international matches. This immense exposure has helped hone the talent of the team, bringing invaluable expertise and tactics to their game.

But things will not be easy as they take on a team that boasts of players from the Major League Soccer (MLS). Having finished second in the CONCAF U-17, India will have to be on their top form today. Indian youngsters seem more than ready for the task. Striker Aniket Jadhav and winger Komal Thatal will be looking to lead from the front and power India past USA’s might.

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