OUr series of group previews for the World Cup continues with a look at Group D.
With the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 now just a couple of days away, the excitement levels in the country have been at an all-time high. The venues are being groomed for the biggest event in Indian football history. Some of the biggest footballing nations are set to go head to head with our young colts, come Friday.
In this article, we look at the four teams that are in Group D, namely North Korea, Niger, Brazil and Spain. These four teams will be playing at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi. The stadium has been recently renovated to house a maximum of 41,748 people. Hosting some of the biggest teams in this tournament, Kochi’s infrastructure has definitely lived up to the expectations of Javier Ceppi, the tournament director.
Having previously participated in the tournament five times, North Korea will look to better their previous performances in the competition. They are in a rather competitive group can really emerge as dark horses. North Korea will look to put up a good fight against the likes of Spain and Brazil and if they survive the group stages and make it out, they can really go far in this tournament.
North Korea will be keen to make a mark in the tournament
Manager: Appointed in the year 2015 ahead of the U-17 World Cup, Kwang Mu Yon is a traditionalist. Building his team from the back, he takes a very defensive approach to the game and plays a 4-4-2 formation, giving more weight to the defenders and defensive midfielders. Although they are in a tough group, Kwang is still positive that they can try to better their performance from the 2015 edition where they were ousted by eventual runners-up Mali in the Round of 16.
Road to World Cup: In the Asian Qualifiers, North Korea finished the group with 2 wins against Yemen and Thailand and lost 3-1 Uzbekistan. This was enough for them to see them through to the next round. North Korea then defeated Oman in the Quarter-finals through a penalty shoot-out which earned them the ticket to India. Unfortunately, they were knocked out of the Asian Qualifiers in the semi-final stage by Iran on penalties.
Gameplay: North Korea play a direct brand of football. Playing solely through the centre of the pitch, teams that defend wide will have big problems against this swift North Korean side. Occasionally, they attack the wings but their strength lies in the middle of the pitch. Song Jin Kang, a box-to-box midfielder, Jin Kang is sure to gather a lot of attention for his work-rate. The 17-year-old is highly regarded and people are already placing big expectations on the kid.
GOALKEEPERS: Tae Song, Ryong Hun, Chol Jin.
DEFENDERS: Hyok Sin, Kyong Sok, Kwang Sok, Kyong Hun, Hyon Il, Cha Kwang.
MIDFIELDERS: Kye Tam, Ju Song, Chung Jin, Pom Hyok, Jin Song, Jin Bom, Il Ju, Yun Min, Kwang Min.
FORWARDS: Hwi Hwang, Kang Guk, Nam Hyok.
For the first time in the history of this competition, Niger will be competing in the finals of this tournament. This will be the country’s first-ever appearance across all age groups in a FIFA competition.
This is Niger’s first appearance at any FIFA tournament
Manager: Known as “The Emperor” in his country, Tiemogo Soumalia represented his national side for a number of years. He was their star defender and even captained the side. Having a coach with this kind of background helps the young boys a lot mentally. Soumalia is known to take a very cautious approach to the game. Niger are a very strong side on the counter and are defensively tight as well.
Road to World Cup: Niger entered the 2017 CAF Africa Cup of Nations trophy in absolute style after beating two-time champions Nigeria on aggregate. This served as a huge confidence boost which than saw the team put together a run which took them to the last four of the continental finals. This run saw them book their place in the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017.
Gameplay: Niger are extremely strong on the left flank thanks to their star man Abdoul Karim Tinni Sanda’s exceptional dribbling and flair. They will look to keep this strategy in this World Cup and will look to launch balls inside the box looking for the target man.
GOALKEEPERS: Moussa Louali, Abdoulaye Boubacar, Khaled Lawali.
DEFENDERS: Mahamadou, Abdoul Nasser, Farouk, Djibrilla, Abdoul Rachid, Ibrahim.
MIDFIELDERS: Yacine, Ismael, Moctar, Habibou, Rachid, Abdoul Karim, Yacouba, Abdoul Kader.
FORWARDS: Abdoul Kairou, Ibrahim, Ahmed Salim, Hamid.
Coming into the tournament as three-time winners and big favourites to lift this coveted trophy, Brazil are rearing to go. The Samba Boys, who have just won the South American U-17 Championship, will look to carry over the momentum through to this competition. Brazil have the best team on paper, let’s hope they show up on the pitch.
Brazil are clear favourites to win the crown
Road to World Cup: Winners of the U-17 South American Championship, Brazil absolutely obliterated their opposition in the competition. Having won seven games and drawn two in their title-winning run, none of the other teams looked a match for them.
Manager: Appointed prior to the 2015 U-17 World Cup, Carlos Amadeu has been slowly and steadily shaping up the Brazilian youngsters. He uses the attacking variant of the 4-3-3. This not only makes Brazil threatening on the counter-attack but also gives them the stability between offence and defence. They have a lot of pace to burn and a lot of talent in the midfield which they will look to capitalise on.
Gameplay: Brazil are likely to build the attack around their star striker. With the defence-splitting passes coming from Alan, a majority of goals come through these two player’s contribution.
Goalkeepers: Gabriel Brazao (Cruzeiro), Lucas Alexandre (Vasco da Gama), Yuri Sena (Vitoria)
Midfielders: Alan de Souza (Palmeiras), Marcos Antonio (Atletico Paranaense), Rodrigo Nestor (Sao Paulo), Victor Bobsin (Gremio), Victor Yan (Santos), Vitinho (Corinthians)
Forwards: Brenner (Sao Paulo), Lincoln (Flamengo), Paulinho (Vasco da Gama), Vinicius Jr (Flamengo), Yuri Alberto (Santos).
Having previously finished as runners-up on three occasions, Spain will look to change that in the tournament. Spain have built a strong squad for this World Cup and this appearance comes after a long absence of nine years. If the La Rojita live up to the expectations, we will definitely see them make it to the knockout phases of this competition.
Spain have built a strong squad for the tournament
Manager: A former Spain international, Santiago Denia knows the intricacies that set apart Spain from the other sides. Denia puts an emphasis on playing with more possession and will look to frustrate the opposition by constantly rotating the ball and switching sides. Spain will look to bank on their quick-fire one-two passes to break down defences.
Gameplay: Spanish teams have been known to play possession-based football, and Denia’s team will be no exception. Their midfield will be the focal point of their game, despite their attack and defence being equally adept. The squad Spain have brought to India features arguably the best u-17 player in Spanish history in Abel Ruiz. The 17-year-old Barcelona forward already tops the Spanish goal-scorers’ chart in his age group having scored 19 goals in 23 appearances. He’ll look to add another feather to his cap by guiding his country to a World Cup win.
Goalkeepers: Alvaro Fernandes, Marc Vidal, Alfonso Vacas.
Defenders: Mateu Moray, Juan Miranda, Hugo Guillamon, Victor Chust, Eric Garcia, Victor Perea.
Midfielders: Antonio Blanco, Alvaro Garcia, Carlos Beitia, Mohammed Mouhkliss.
Forwards: Ferran Torres, Abel Ruiz, Sergio Gomez, Nacho Diaz, Pedro Ruiz, Diego Pampin, Jose Alonso Lara, Cesar Gelabert.
Brazil 2 – 1 Spain
North Korea 1 – 0 Niger
Spain 2 – 0 Niger
North Korea 0 – 3 Brazil
Spain 3 – 1 North Korea
Niger 0 – 3 Brazil.
Brazil and Spain go through from the group to the knockout stage whilst North Korea and Niger finish third and fourth respectively. North Korea might make it out of the group if they are better compared to the other third-place teams from the other groups.