Our look ahead to the tournament continues with a preview of Group F based in Kolkata.
The FIFA U-17 World Cup is now only a few days away and this biggest football tournament on Indian Soil will see its final taking place in the historic Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata. But before that, the City of Joy will host the matches in Group F taking place between England, Mexico, Chile and Iraq. The matches kick-off from 8th October and five group stage matches are all set to take place in the refurnished Salt Lake Stadium.
In what is a rather competitive group, Group F will see all its participants fighting to make it past the group and into the knockout stages and the likes of England and Mexico are favourites to make it out. One can expect some really entertaining matches to take place in this group which is pretty unpredictable because of how good all the teams are. Without further adieu, let us take a look at everything you need to know about Group F and its teams!
The Three Lions have a lot of talent in their squad
The Three Lions haven’t really had the best of times playing in the U-17 World Cup in the past, as they have normally struggled to keep up with the best in previous tournaments. England’s U-17 team got knocked out of the group stage last time out and they are yet to make a real impact in the tournament so far. But things look on the brighter side for the Three Lions this time around as they have a raring bunch of young talent and the recent impressive form shown at the UEFA U-17 European Championship will definitely inspire the young lads to go all the way this season.
Manager: England U-17’s side has been showing signs of real development under coach Steve Cooper, who has done a fabulous job with the team so far. Not only did he help the Three Lions qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in style, but has unearthed some real gems in the likes of Angel Gomes, Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho since his arrival. Although they have a poor record in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, England could overturn that bad form thanks to Cooper’s brilliant work which has seen The Three Lions win 11 of their last 12 games and sees them heading into the tournament with their heads held high.
Road To World Cup: The Three Lions headed into the UEFA U-17 European Championship with a load of confidence because of their unbeaten run in the qualifiers for the tournament. They continued their impressive run by topping their group in triumphant fashion and progressing to the knockout rounds of the tournament, where they defeated rivals Northern Ireland in the quarter-finals to book a place in the semi-finals and also confirm their spot at India 2017. They also got a hard-fought win against Turkey in the semi-finals, but their dream run was disrupted by Spain who went on to lift the trophy after winning the final through a penalty shootout.
Gameplay: Cooper tends to go with a basic 4-4-2 formation in the big matches, which worked really well for the Three Lions in the UEFA European U-17 Championship. With the likes of Foden and Sancho being the focal point of their attack, England rely on counter-attacking football and mostly play with two strikers in Rhian Brewstar and Callum Hudson-Odoi to help them score on the break. They may not be the most dominant team against formidable opponents but have managed to get the job done and are a vicious side in attack because of the electric pace of their wingers and their lethal attackers.
Goalkeepers: Curtis Anderson (Manchester City), Josef Bursik (Stoke City), William Crellin (Fleetwood Town).
Defenders: Timothy Eyoma (Tottenham Hotspur), Morgan Gibbs White (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Lewis Gibson (Everton), Marc Guéhi (Chelsea), Joel Latibeaudiere (Manchester City), Tashan Oakley Boothe (Tottenham Hotspur), Jonathan Panzo (Chelsea), Steven Sessegnon (Fulham).
Midfielders: Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Angel Gomes (Manchester United), Nya Kirby (Crystal Palace), George McEachran (Chelsea).
Forwards: Rhian Brewster (Liverpool), Philip Foden (Manchester City), Callum Hudson Odoi (Chelsea), Danny Loader (Reading), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal).
The South American giants are the underdogs of the group
While the Chilean senior team may be one of the best teams in the world right now, but their juniors are also slowly making their mark in football as they stunned many by reaching the final of the South American U-17 Championship earlier this year. La Rojita are a team who should be able to adapt to the difficult Indian conditions very well due to them resembling their own and knowing how good they are in these conditions, Chile could very well be a dark horse going into the tournament.
Manager: Hernan Caputto may not be a widely recognized coach, but he has done a really impressive job with the young lads of Chile. He made the young Chileans work hard to go all the way in the recent South American U-17 Championship and actually surpassed expectations when they finished as runners-up to eventual winners, Brazil. Caputto has made Chile a tough nut to crack because of their strong defensive structure and willingness to keep out their opponents. Even though they’ve been placed in a rather tough group, one can be sure that the relentless nature of La Rojita will make them a formidable opponent for whoever faces them.
Road to World Cup: Chile are going to play their second U-17 World Cup in two decades as the South American giants had their chance at confirming their qualification at the 2017 South American U-17 Championships which took place in their home country. They gave a really impressive showing, topping their group ahead of the likes of Uruguay and Colombia. The Little Red One also went on to have a stunning knockout phase as they defeated every opposition and booked their place at India 2017 by only coming runners-up to eventual champions Brazil.
Gameplay: La Rojita might not play the same exciting, attacking brand of football which fans have recently seen Chile play, but they know how to get the job done. During their highly successful run in the 2017 South American U-17 Championship, all of Chile’s wins came by the 1-0 margin as they tend to try to get the lead and sit back afterwards. The defensive structure of the team is pretty strong as it was shown in the tournament where Chile kept five clean sheets.
The defensive structure of the team is pretty strong as it was shown in the tournament where Chile kept five clean sheets. Caputto normally plays a 4-3-3 formation which helps them stack the midfield with three men and maintain a solid defensive shape with the wingers helping out the defence as well and because of how well they are commanded by the coach, they could be a really difficult team to break down for their opponents.
Goalkeepers: Julio Borquez (Sprots Iquique), Rodrigo Cancino (University of Chile), Hugo Araya (Cobreloa).
Defenders: Gaston Zuniga (O’Higgins), Matias Silva (Union San Felipe), Lucas Alarcon (University of Chile), Sebastian Valencia, Nicolas Aravena (both Colo Colo); Yerco Oyanedel (Catholic University).
Midfielders: Maximiliano Guerrero, Mauricio Morales (both University of Chile), Martin Lara (Catholic University), Oliver Rojas (Audax Italiano), Branco Provoste (Colo Colo).
Forwards: Diego Valencia, Pedro Campos (Catholic University); William Gama (Santiago Wanderers), Ignacio Contreras (Colo Colo), Ignacio Mesias (Union San Felipe), Jairo Vasquez (Students of La Plata), Antonio Diaz O’Higgins.
Iraq will look to continue their impressive form in the World Cup
An Asian powerhouse for their senior side, Iraq have made only one previous appearance in the FIFA U-17 World Cup till date. Their maiden and appearance came four years ago, in the United Arab Emirates. Put in Group F in 2013, Iraq lost all of their matches in the group stage against Sweden, Mexico and Nigeria who went on to clinch the trophy as well as the second and third positions in the tournament respectively.
Manager: After taking charge of the Iraqi junior team, Qahtan Jathir has accomplished nothing short of a tremendous performance. Under his managerial reign, Iraq won the country’s first ever AFC U-16 Championship in Goa last year. “The first target was to qualify for the World Cup and after that, it was to become champions of Asia,” Jathir had said to the Hindustan Times before last year’s final and will be returning to the country to participate as the continental champions in the World Cup.
A decorated player himself, Jathir started his career at Iraqi side Al-Talaba and went on to play in neighbouring countries such as Qatar and the UAE. After his retirement in 2007, he took up managerial gigs and coached clubs such as Al-Sinaa, Al-Najaf and Al-Shorta before being appointed as the Iraq U-17 coach.
Road to World Cup: The middle eastern country booked their berth in the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 in India last year when they won the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship. In the final of the tournament, the Iraqis defeated Iran on penalties to become the continental champions for the first time in the history of the country.
Gameplay: The Iraq U-17 squad’s gameplay is almost identical to teams that depend on their wing play. The Iraqi teenagers play with pacy full-backs who take the ball forward and try to find the attacking midfielder(s) who in turn passes the ball to the lone striker upfront.
However, with not many pacy players in the middle of the park, Iraq had a tough time in the first two matches of the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship as they could not score enough goals. However, courtesy forward Mohammed Dawood, the Iraqis came back to their original selves as they were crowned champions and the striker was crowned the top scorer of the tournament.
Goalkeepers: Ali Ibadi (Air Force Athletic Club), Mustafa Zuhair (Naft Al-Wasat SC), Abdulazeez Ammar (Al Shorta SC).
Defenders: Ali Raad, Muntadher Abdulsada (Al Hidood); Abdulabbas Ayad, Ammar Mohammed (Al Talaba SC); Maytham Jabbar (Al Shola), Muntadher Mohammed (Al Kahraba), Mohammed Al-Baqer (Al Sina’a FC).
Midfielders: Habeeb Mohammed, Saif Khalid, Mohammed Ridha (Al Talaba SC); Abbas Ali (Al Hussein SC), Bassam Shakir (Al Karkh SC), Mohammed Ali (Al Nagda), Moamel Karim (Al Shorta SC), Ahmed Sartip (Gas Al Shemal).
Forwards: Mohammed Dawood (Al Naft SC), Ali Kareem (Baghdad FC), Alaa Adnaan (Al Nagda).
El Tri will look to spice up the group with their entertaining football
One of the most powerful and prestigious Latin American sides, Mexico have been enjoying what might be called the ‘goalden generation with their U-17 sides. Nicknamed ‘El Tri’, Mexico have won two world cups since the turn of the century. However, they lost 3-0 in the 2013 final against Nigeria and was limited to the fourth place in Chile 2015.
Manager: Mario Arteaga was appointed as the head coach of the El Tri in 2015, after which he drove his squad to a fourth-place finish in the U-17 World Cup in Chile. His Mexican squad endured a third-place playoff against Belgium in the following days. However, Arteaga’s managerial capabilities have paid off for the Mexicans in recent times as they won the 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship and booked their position in the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Road to World Cup: The road to the tournament was full of bumps for the Latin Americans as they were defeated 4-3 by rivals USA in the group stages of CONCACAF U-17 Championship. However, they retaliated soon after the defeat and reached the final of the tournament after defeating El Salvador, Jamaica and Costa Rica. The El Tri met with the USA again in the final, which they won by a penalty shootout and booked their berth in the U-17 World Cup this year.
A solid possession based unit, Mexico scored 22 goals in only six games at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship. Arteaga’s gameplay consists of a strong centre-back partnership and a strong holding midfielder. The game is dictated by the midfielders running havoc and passing pinpoint forward passes to feed the attackers.
Goalkeepers: Víctor André Alcaráz Díaz (Guadalajara), César Iván López De Alba (Guadalajara), César Rafael Ramos Becerra (Monterrey).
Defenders: Alan Maeda Luevanos (Saints), Luis Alejandro Olivas Salcedo (Guadalajara), Oscar Haret Ortega Gatica (America), Carlos Alejandro Robles Jiménez (Atlas), Adrián Vázquez Hernández (Pachuca), Sergio Villarreal Lozano (Monterrey), Raúl Martín Sandoval Zavala (Tijuana).
Midfielders: Luis Javier Gamíz Ávila (Tijuana), Carlos Eduardo Guerrero Zavala (Lion), Alexis Hazael Gutiérrez Torres (Guadalajara), Diego Laínez Leyva (America), Deivoon Alexander Magaña Rico (Guadalajara), Jesús Andrés Pérez Álvarez (Querétaro), Marco Antonio Ruíz Zarco (Atlas).
Forwards: Ian Jairo Misael Torres Ramírez (Atlas), Roberto Carlos De la Rosa González (Pachuca), César Saúl Huerta Valera (Guadalajara), Daniel Guadalupe López Valdez (Tijuana).
Chile 2-1 England
Iraq 0-2 Mexico
England 2-2 Mexico
Iraq 2-1 Chile
England 3-1 Iraq
Mexico 1-0 Chile
Mexico and England qualify to the next round from this group as Chile and Iraq finish their U-17 World Cup journey by finishing third and fourth respectively. However, positions might interchange between Chile and England if the climate of Kolkata does not suit the English players and they are unable to give their best in the 90 minutes against Chile.