United States of America secured their passage into the round of 16 riding on substitute Ayo Akinola’s 75-minute strike for a 1-0 victory over Ghana in an enthralling Group A game of the Fifa U-17 World Cup in New Delhi on Monday.
Coach John Hackworth’s 63rd minute substitution proved to be a masterstroke as the 17-year-old forward found the back of the net off a Christopher Goslin pass to put his team in front at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Up against a dangerous side that has won the tournament twice, the Americans then sat deep to counter Ghana’s quick counter attacks.
Ghana tried to find the equaliser, but USA’s dogged defence could not be breached as they become the first team to make it to the knock-out stage.
Some credit must be reserved for Hackworth, who, realising that Tim Weah, one of his better players, was having an off day, decided to make the change.
And the move paid dividends 12 minutes later.
The Detroit-born Akinola, who was also eligible to play for Canada and Nigeria, could have had another goal to his name, but his shot went over.
Till Akinola got the better of Danlad Ibrahim, it appeared that the two teams would share the spoils after a slew of attempts failed to materialise in a goal.
Up until that point, the Ghana goalkeeper was doing his job like a dependable custodian would normally do. His counterpart at the other end of the field, Justin Graces, was also impressive.
Mali pump in three past hapless Turkey
African champions Mali bounced back after their opening match defeat by thrashing Turkey 3-0 in a Group B game at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Monday.
Having lost their lung opener 2-3 to Paraguay on October 6, last edition’s losing finalists Mali needed nothing less than a victory on Monday and they achieved it with elan by scoring once in the first half and twice in the second.
The Turks were outclassed and were lucky not to have conceded more goals.
After missing a spate of chances, Mali took the lead through midfielder Djemoussa Traore in the 38th minute. They made it 2-0 when their misfiring forward Lassana N’Diaye found the target in the 68th minute before defender Fode Konate rounded off the tally in the 86th minute by sidestepping two defenders.
It was the first win in two games for the Africans who meet New Zealand on October 12 to complete their group engagements while Turkey, who drew with New Zealand on October 6, are up against Paraguay on Thursday.