2017 U17 World Cup, Group Stage
  • Sadiq Ibrahim (39')

Ghana flex attacking muscle in opening win

Two-time champions Ghana made the perfect start to the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, as Sadiq Ibrahim's first-half strike gave them three vital points in New Delhi. In the process, Ghana also broke the record for goals scored in consecutive Under-17 WC matches - 22 - a record they previously shared with Germany.

Against a tactically solid but visibly nervous Colombia, Ghana came strong off the blocks, especially their attacking quartet of wingers Ibrahim, Emmanuel Toku and strikers Aminu Mohammed and Eric Ayiah.

Ayiah, rumoured to be on the radar of FC Porto, pulled the strings in attack, effortlessly gliding in and out of spaces to put pressure on the full-backs Robert Mejia and Juan Penaloza.

There was one player Ayiah appeared to have a special understanding with, though, and that was Right to Dream Academy's Ibrahim. Ibrahim, operating initially along the left, was the first player to come close to scoring, albeit from a miscued cross that Colombian goalkeeper Kevin Mier had to tip over the bar in the 14th minute. Twelve minutes later, Ayiah created space out of nothing on the left, and sent a beautiful cross in for Ibrahim on the far post, but he failed to keep his attempted header on target.

Not long after, there was a buzz around the ground as Ibrahim got the ball into the net, but he was well offside at that point of time. With six minutes to half-time, the Ayiah-Ibrahim combination got another chance to work their magic, and this time Ibrahim kept his composure to finish what the two had begun.

Right to Dream Academy, a project that was founded one year before 17-year-old Ibrahim was born by former Manchester United African football scout Tom Vernon, actually had two graduates on the pitch in Ghana's starting lineup - central midfielder Kudus Mohammed was a big presence that made sure Colombia rarely got anything moving through the centre - but nobody enjoyed himself as much as Ibrahim.

Early in the second half, Ibrahim almost turned provider for his captain with a pacy run on the right and a well-measured pass that Ayiah failed to convert. Right through the match, both Ghanians showed their maturity not just with their skills, but also how they used their body to good effect when fed with the occasional long ball.

At the post-match press conference, coach Samuel Fabin would heap praise on Ibrahim, calling him one of the fastest emerging talents from Ghana. "When we went to the African championships, he unfortunately could not join us because his team, the Right to Dream Academy, was on tour in Denmark at that point of time," he said. "He is shaping up into a fine winger."

Colombia, on their part, fought well, especially their winger Leandro Campaz who promises to be one of the potential stars of this World Cup, but on the opening night, there was no doubt they were second-best to their African opponents.

As for Ghana, their attacking lineup would have given every right to realise their collective dream of being the world's best at this level once again.