Profiling India’s Group Stage Opponents

The draw for the much-awaited FIFA U-17 World Cup happening in India took place on Friday, 7th July 2017 in Mumbai. Former Argentine International Esteban Cambiasso picked India’s first group member in the form of the USA. Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri then went on to decide India’s first game would be against the USA.

Nwankwo Kanu best known for his days as a striker for Arsenal and even now fondly remembered for his magic hat trick against Chelsea, who went all the way with Nigeria in the 1993 U-17 WC, picked India’s third and fourth group members, Colombia and Ghana respectively.

A frightening set of fixtures at first glance in the team’s first ever appearance at the tournament, the coach Luis Norton De Matos put on a brave face and confidently stated “We aren’t afraid, the boys aren’t scared “.

Taking a look at India’s group stage opponents:

USA: No stranger to this competition, featuring in 15 out of the last 16 editions the USA are a very strong outfit, however De Matos believes his side can get the better out of them.

The USA boast a best finish of fourth place in the 1999 edition of this competition. They qualified for the 2017 edition by finishing runners to Mexico in a closely fought game at the CONCACAF U-17 championship. The game was tied at 1-1 and Mexico prevailed eventual winners 5-4 in the penalty shoot outs.

Colombia: 2017 will be their sixth U-17 world cup outing and their first since 2009. They have advanced to the Semi Finals stages in the 2003, 2009 editions, which remain their best finishes in this particular tournament. They booked their place in the world cup with a last gasp win against Paraguay, coming from 1-0 down to win 2-1. Their coach Orlando Restrepo was confident of his sides abilities saying, “People can expect a magnificent team, we’ll give our best performance so that the Colombians can celebrate with us”.

India and Colombia are taking part in a tournament along with Mexico and Chile in July, Indian coach De Matos said he wanted to use this opportunity to get to know the Colombian team better, and help his sides preparation.

Ghana: De Matos considers them one of the favourites, stating “They are a team with a strong tradition at this tournament, and with Mali, they’re easily the top two teams from Africa”.

This tournament is their 9th appearance and first since 2007. They boast an impressive record having won it twice in 1991 and 1995 and finishing second in 1993 and 1997.  Astonishingly it has been revealed that their coach Paa Kwesi Fabin hasn’t received any payment for two years, however he chose to put his national duties first stating,”If I have worked extremely worked hard to qualify for the World Cup, why should I leave them.”

A total of 24 countries will participate in the U-17 World Cup later this year and the tournament will be held in six cities throughout India: Kochi, Goa, Navi Mumbai, New Delhi, Guwahati, and Kolkata.

The top two teams in each of the six four-team groups, as well as the four best third-place teams, will advance to the Round of 16 on Oct. 16, 17 and 18.

– Srujan

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