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FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 Guide: Group A

The 17th edition of the U17 World Cup takes place in India, the first FIFA tournament held in the country, and only the 4th one held on the Asian continent. These articles provide a guide for football enthusiasts on each of the participating 24 nations.

Note that all information below has been provided/written non-exclusively by the official local organizing committee of the U-17 World Cup 2017.


India


FIFA U-17 World Cup record: 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.

Road to India: India, as the host country, have automatically qualified for the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017. Under previous manager Nicolai Adam, the team were held to a 3-3 draw against Saudi Arabia in the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship, and while they were defeated by UAE and Iran in their other group stage games, they displayed encouraging progress.

The Coach: Portuguese coach Luis Norton de Matos assumed control of the Indian U-17 side in March 2017, replacing Adams who departed his role earlier in the year. De Matos represented Portugal at 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.”

The Stat: 7 – is how many times India have participated at the AFC U-16 Championship, but only once have they progressed past the first round. In 2002 the team managed to make it to the quarter-finals, their best result to date, where they were defeated by Korea Republic.


United States of America


FIFA U-17 World Cup record: USA have participated in 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, USA failed to emerge from the group stage for the first time since 2001.

Road to India: 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 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. USA impressed throughout the qualifying tournament, winning every game up to the dramatic finale, which saw Mexico equalise in stoppage time before sealing a shootout victory.

The Coach: 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 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.

The Stat: 5 – Almost half of the 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship’s ‘Best XI’, as voted by the Technical Study Group of the tournament, were from USA: goalkeeper Justin Garces, defenders Jaylin Lindsey and James Sands, midfielder Chris Durkin and forward Josh Sargent all made the cut.


Colombia


FIFA U-17 World Cup record: India 2017 will be Colombia’s sixth appearance at a 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 Cafeterosreached the Round of 16 at Korea Republic 2007 but exited at the group stage at both Scotland 1989 and Japan 1993.

Road to India: Colombia secured their World Cup berth by virtue of their third-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). With World Cup qualification on the line, they then bounced back with a 2-1 win over Paraguay to seal their passage.

The Coach: 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.

The Stat: 3 – The number of goals scored by each of Santiago Barrero, Juan Penaloza and Jaminton Campaz. Between them, the trio accounted for 75 per cent of Colombia’s goal tally during the qualifying event.


Ghana


FIFA U-17 World Cup record: The 1990s were a truly remarkable era for the Black Starlets, winning the FIFA U-17 World Cup twice – in 1991 and 1995 – reaching four out of five finals and finishing third in the 1999 edition. Some of the starlets from the 1990s, including Samuel Kuffour, Stephen Appiah and Michael Essien, would go on to represent the senior side at the FIFA World Cup™ in the 2000s. Since those heady days though, except for a semi-final berth in 2007, the Ghanaians have had something of a barren run, reaching the global showpiece just twice in the last seven attempts.

Road to India: The two-time champions reached their first U-17 World Cup for a decade in, at times, stop-start circumstances. After edging Burkina Faso 6-5 over two legs in the second round of qualification, they saw off Côte d’Ivoire to progress to the CAF Africa U-17 Cup of Nations in Gabon. Once there, they hit their stride, defeating Cameroon 4-0 and the hosts 5-0, the latter result securing their spot as the first African side on the plane to India 2017. After that, the Ghanaians did not score again in regulation time, drawing 0-0 with Guinea in their final group game and with Niger in the semi-finals, winning on penalties to reach the final, where they lost 1-0 to Mali.

The Coach: 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.

“We will surely make some additions to the squad before the World Cup,” he said. “We had some of the guys who got injured, which prevented them from joining the team in Gabon. We hope to get these boys and we will also do more scouting to try and get a few others as well.”

The stat: 9 – goals scored by Ghana at Gabon 2017, to add to their nine scored in the qualifiers. No teams scored more at the CAF U-17 Africa Cup of Nations finals, despite the Black Starlets failing to score in their final four hours at the tournament.

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