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FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 Preview: Group A

Written by: Tushaar Sachdeva

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The hosts feature prominently in a group based in the national capital.

The FIFA U-17 World Cup is on the doorstep and we cannot wait for the football festivities to begin. Football has always had a love-hate relationship within the Indian folklore. The hotbeds are so scattered within the country that even the Indian Super League and the I-League initiatives have found it difficult to unite the nation, let alone reside in its heart. With that said, the rise of European football in the last decade has contributed vastly to the rise of football in the nation and is also a major influencing factor behind All India Football Federation’s bid to host this global tournament.

The enthusiasm of Indian football fans is at an all-time high and there could not have been a better moment than this to host a tournament of this stature in the country. FIFA U- 17 World Cups are a great opportunity for any host country to lay the foundation for future stars by providing them with the appropriate stage to showcase their mettle. All of the youth tournaments and development programs are carefully designed and are in turn one of the prioritized projects in many European countries. Germany are the best example of proper planning and disciplined development. If India aims to make it big in the world of football than it must use this stage to incite a revolution.

The World Cup will kick start on 6th October and will continue for a span of 20 days. There are going to be a total of 50 matches between 24 teams, divided equally into 6 groups. India is placed in Group A with the likes of Ghana, The United States of America and Colombia. All of the Group A matches will be played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi on 6th, 9th and 12th October.

The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium looks ready to host the first FIFA tournament in India

The stadium is named after the first Prime Minister of India and was initially constructed to host the 1982 Asian Games, before being further renovated for the Commonwealth Games, 2010. But to accommodate the track, 18,000 seats were removed, reducing the maximum seating capacity to 60,000.

To reach the JLN Stadium: Click here!

Khel Now brings you the detailed outlook on the Group A teams, their squads and a bit of an insight into their gameplay.

GHANA

Ghana are one of the tournament's powerhouses

Ghana are one of the most successful teams in this tournament. They boast of five medals within the span of eight years, winning it twice. They were the runners-up in 1993 and 1997, finally attaining the third position in 1999. 

Manager: Former Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak coach Paa Kwesi Fabin took charge of the Black Starlets in October 2011, meaning he has reached the U-17 World Cup at the third time of asking. Despite a strong showing in Gabon, he has hinted at alterations for India 2017.

Road to World Cup: Ghana, qualified after being the runners-up in the African Cup of Nations with the likes of Guinea, Mali and Niger. They scored nine goals in four matches and none of the opponents could trouble their goalkeeper in regulation time.

Gameplay: Their play is free-flowing and based on sound positional sense. Ghana play a typical counter-attacking football while exploiting the wings and carefully utilizing the space in the hole. The forwards are strong and fast, leading to the creation of many one-on-one situations. Their high line and the pressing by the front three makes them lethal in the opposition half.

Defensively, they have a bunch of quality goalkeepers with physically strong defenders, who are also dangerous in set pieces. As of now, they have unveiled the provisional squad as follows,

Full squad:
Goalkeepers:
 Michael Acquaye (Wafa), Ibrahim Danlad (Asante Kotoko), Kwame Aziz (Mandela Soccer Academy)

Defenders: Bismark Terry Owusu (Mandela Soccer Academy), Najeeb Yakubu (New Town Youth), Rashid Alhassan (Aduana Stars), Abdul RazakYusif (FC Tanga), Gideon Acquah (Accra United), John Otu (Dreams FC), Gideon Mensah (Right to Dream Academy),

Midfielders: Isaac Antah (Accra Young Wise),Mohammed Iddriss(Cheetah FC), Gabriel Leveh (Tema Youth), Sulley Ibrahim (New Life FC), Emmanuel Toku (Cheetah FC), Edmund Arko Mensah (Wa All Stars), Richard Danso (Wafa), Ibrahim Sadiq(Right to Dream Academy),Rudolf Blagogee (FC Mamobi),Mohammed Kudus (Right to Dream Academy),Evans Sarfo (Asokwa Deportivo), Isaac Gyamfi(New Life FC), Emmanuel Antwi (Charity FC)

Strikers: Eric Ayiah (Charity Stars), Mohammed Aminu (Wafa)

Colombia

This is Colombia sixth appearance at the event

India 2017 will be Colombia’s sixth appearance at the FIFA U-17 World Cup and their first since Nigeria 2009 when they finished third and matched their previous best performance at the tournament, dating back to Finland 2003. In their other appearances, Los Cafeteros have a mixed record, not proceeding further than the Round of 16 at the Korea Republic 2007 and exiting at the group stage at both Scotland 1989 and Japan 1993.

Road to World Cup: Colombia secured their World Cup berth through their fourth-placed finish at this year’s South American U-17 Championship. Two wins, one draw and one defeat saw them take second place in Group A behind Chile and move comfortably into the hexagonal final phase. Things were more complicated there though, with an opening victory over Ecuador (2-1) followed by a draw with Venezuela and losses to Chile (1-0) and Brazil (3-0).

Manager: Though never a professional player, Colombian Orlando Restrepo has been a lifetime student of the game. On top of that, he is also a sports technology practitioner and physical education instructor. The 60-year-old has racked up extensive coaching experience at club level in his homeland, Bolivia and Costa Rica while enjoying a successful spell with Atletico Nacional’s U-17 side between 2013 and 2015. He has been in charge of the national U-17 team since August 2016.

Gameplay: Tactically, the current team is rather inconsistent and is often found in grave situations. They have a shaky defence and a below-par goalkeeper. They play possession football with a sublime attack, but have failed to score against giants like Chile and Brazil. They dominate midfield quite fairly but they lack support from the wings. As far as their midfielders are concerned, they are a constant threat to opposing the teams with illustrious strikes from outside the box and dead-ball situations. As a unit, the team is error-prone and is known for giving away free-kicks around the box too often.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Nicolás Gómez, Kevin Mier, Daniel Melo

Defenders: Andrés Cifuentes, Guillermo Tegue

Midfielders: Christian Andrade, Thomas Gutiérrez, Andrés Perea, Bryan Gomez, Juan Penaloza, Robert Mejia, Yadir Meneses, Gustavo Carjaval, Fabian Angel, Etilso Martinez

Forwards: Leandro Campaz, Luiz Lopez, Santiago Barrero, Deiber Caicedo, Deyman Cortes, Juan Vidal

The United States of America

The Americans have been ever-present in the competition

The USA have participated in almost every edition, 15 of the 16 editions of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, having only missed out in 2013. The Stars and Stripes' best showing to date has been at New Zealand 1999, where they came fourth, narrowly missing out on a spot in the final after losing to Australia on penalties in the semi-finals. The Americans reached the quarter-finals on four other occasions, most recently at Peru 2005. Last time out at Chile 2015, they failed to emerge from the group stage for the first time since 2001.

Road to World Cup: Despite eventually losing to Mexico in the CONCACAF U-17 Championship final on penalties, the USA’s most notable achievement at Panama 2017, aside from reaching the U-17 World Cup itself, was defeating the El Tri  4-3 in a group stage thriller. The win was the USA U-17 side’s first victory against their arch-rivals in the history of the continental finals and put an end to Mexico’s 25-game unbeaten streak in the tournament.

The USA impressed throughout the qualifying tournament, winning every game up to the dramatic finale, which saw Mexico equalize in stoppage time before sealing a shootout victory. Their biggest ever win came against minnows Kyrgyzstan, by a margin of 11 goals in 2013.

Manager: John Hackworth took over from Richie Williams, who was at the helm for USA’s disappointing performance at Chile 2015, as the USA’s U-17 coach in late 2015. The Florida native has previously been an assistant for the U-17 national team, and head coach at MLS side the Philadelphia Union. He will be the last man to take charge of a U-17 national team that has been part of the USSF’s (United States Soccer Federation) Residency programme, which will be disbanded after the finals.

Gameplay: Hackworth is well known for his rapid free-flowing football, which was visible through the team’s display in the CONCACAF tournament. The USA played in a poised way, dominating every match they played in. The trident of Weah, Akinola and Carelton is very effective and essential in Hackworth’s play. 

Their play is based on the effective use of wings and long balls from their own half. Having tall men makes them lethal in set-pieces. However, they lack defensively, being poor against quality teams and their goalkeeper lacks the confidence to command his area. Interestingly, The USA were the team to waste the most penalties in the CONCACAF tournament.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Justin Garces, Dos Santos CJ, Alex Budnik

Defenders: Jaylin Lindsey, Chris Gloster, James Sands, Tyler Shaver, Chris Durkin, Sergino Dest, Akil Watts

Midfielders: Blaine Ferri, Andrew Carleton, George Acosta, Taylor Booth, Chris Goslin, Indiana Vassilev

Forwards: Ayo Akinola, Josh Sargent, Tim Weah, Bryan Reynolds, Jacobo Reyes 


Also Read


INDIA

India, as the host country, have automatically qualified for the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017. Under previous manager Nicolai Adam, the team was held to a 3-3 draw against Saudi Arabia in the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship and while they were defeated by the UAE and Iran in their other group stage games, they have displayed encouraging progress since then. History is definitely not on their side as this is India’s maiden appearance in this tournament.

The Indian Squad set to participate in the FIFA U-17 World Cup

Road to the World Cup: Ranked in the lower reaches of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, India are strugglers even on the continental scene. In fact, the world's second-most populated country has made little impression on the international stage over the past four decades. They have never represented Asia in a FIFA tournament.

Manager: Portuguese coach Luis Norton de Matos assumed control of the Indian U-17 side in March 2017, replacing Adam who departed his role earlier in the year. De Matos represented Portugal at the senior international level during his playing days and has coached a host of club sides in his homeland, as well as the Guinea-Bissau national side. 

"I do have an Indian connection as my great-grandfather was born in Goa," De Matos revealed after his appointment. "I will retain the positives of the last two years as we move forward."

Gameplay: De Matos’ team is focused on the typical Portuguese model of play, simplifying the transition from defence to attack through the impactful wingers the Indian team possesses. They play in a 4-2-3-1 formation, counter-attacking play with a swift exchange of passes. Their key to success are the holding midfielders that make everything look so easy while they do the dirty work.

Squad

GOALKEEPERS: Dheeraj SinghPrabhsukhan GillSunny Dhaliwal

DEFENDERS: Boris SinghJitendra SinghAnwar AliSanjeev StalinHendry AntonayNamit Deshpande

MIDFIELDERS: Suresh SinghNinthoinganba MeeteiAmarjit Singh KiyamAbhijit SarkarKomal Thatal, Lalengmawia, Jeakson Singh, Nongdamba NaoremRahul Kannoly PraveenMd. Shahjahan

FORWARDS: Rahim AliAniket Jadhav

Predicted Results

Khel Now predicts these scores for the Group A games

Ghana and the USA qualify as the top two position-holders in the group, with India and Columbia finishing 3rd and 4th. India might get through the group if they finish with a statistical advantage over other 3rd placed teams in the tournament.

Published: Tue Oct 03, 2017 03:28 PM IST

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