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FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 Guide: Group B

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.


Paraguay


FIFA U-17 World Cup record: India 2017 will be Paraguay’s fourth appearance at a FIFA U-17 World Cup. Their debut, and best result to date, came at New Zealand 1999, where they finished fifth. However, they failed to progress beyond the group stage in their two subsequent appearances, at Trinidad and Tobago 2001 and Chile 2015.

Road to India: Paraguay secured their World Cup berth thanks to their third-placed finish at this year’s South American U-17 Championship. Two wins and two draws in the first phase earned them second spot in Group B behind Brazil and a place in the six-team final round. There they drew with Brazil and Ecuador (both 2-2) before beating Chile (2-0) and Venezuela (3-1) to stamp their ticket to India with one game to spare. Their final fixture was a 2-1 reverse at the hands of Colombia.

The Coach: A tidy midfielder in his day, the Paraguayan Gustavo Morinigo enjoyed a 15-year playing career that took him from his homeland to Argentina and Colombia. At international level, he represented Los Guaranies at both the FIFA U-20 World Cup Malaysia 1997 and the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™. Morinigo made his coaching debut in 2012, a year after hanging up his boots, and would go on to coach the Paraguyan U-20 team between spells in charge of Nacional and Cerro Porteno. He took up the reins of the U-17s in 2016.

The Stat: 1.77 – Paraguay’s goals-per-game average during the qualifiers. With 16 strikes in total, they had the second most potent attack of South America’s four qualified sides behind that of champions Brazil. Moreover, they were the only team to score against A Seleção during the tournament, a feat they managed on three occasions.


Mali


FIFA U-17 World Cup record: Mali qualified for three successive FIFA U-17 World Cups between 1997 and 2001, but then experienced something of a downturn, missing out on the tournament for the ten years that followed. In 1997, the Malians were knocked out on penalties by Germany at the quarter-final stage – the decisive spot-kick was missed by Seydou Keita, who would go on to shine for a number of major European clubs, such as Sevilla, Barcelona and Roma. Two years later, in New Zealand, Les Aiglonnets failed to advance from the group stage, while in 2001, the Africans came close to breaking into the last four, but lost out to Argentina 2-1 in extra time. It was not until Chile 2015, where they made it all the way to the final – which resulted in a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Nigeria – that they overcame the quarter-final hurdle.

Road to India: For the first time in the history of the CAF U-17 Africa Cup of Nations, the holders of the continental title succeeded in retaining their crown. Champions in 2015, Mali once again emerged victorious in Gabon this year. Having breezed through the qualifying rounds, which featured a 9-0 victory over Chad in N’Djamena, the Malians negotiated the group stage without great fanfare until their third match, when they disposed of Angola 6-1 (they had initially drawn 0-0 with Tanzania and beaten Niger 2-1). In the semi-finals, following a scoreless stalemate, they got the better of Guinea via a penalty shoot-out, and in the final, a Mamadou Samake goal was enough to secure a win over Ghana and a second continental title.

The Coach: Having formerly taken charge of Djoliba, one of Mali’s major clubs, and Emirati side Bani Yas, Togolese tactician Jonas Komla took the reins of Les Aiglonnets after the departure of Baye Bah, who had led them to the final of Chile 2015. Like his predecessor, Komla guided his charges to continental glory, and he hopes to also emulate Bah on the global stage by reaching the final in India. “We want to honour Mali and all of Africa during the U-17 World Cup,” he said. “But it’s a completely different level. It’s another challenge, and we’ll have to prepare for it in a serious manner.”

The Stat: 0 – In the semi-finals of the Africa U-17 Cup of Nations, Mali defeated Guinea on penalties, a result for which they could thank their goalkeeper, Youssouf Koita, who did not let the ball get past him once during the entire encounter, even in the shoot-out. Of the four Guinean attempts from the spot, he made three fine saves and watched as the fourth effort came back off the crossbar.


New Zealand


FIFA U-17 World Cup record: India 2017 will mark New Zealand’s eighth participation in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, and their sixth in succession. It is a tournament in which New Zealand has enjoyed significant accomplishment. Their debut was at Egypt 1997 in what was one of the nation’s first FIFA competition. Two years later New Zealand played host to the tournament; the first to be held in Oceania, aside from those hosted by former OFC member Australia. New Zealand’s team at Nigeria 2009 etched their name into the nation’s football annals by becoming the first Kiwi team to progress to the knockout phase of a FIFA tournament. They repeated the feat at Mexico 2011, and then again two years ago in Chile where New Zealand suffered a 1-0 injury-time defeat against Brazil in the Round of 16.

Road to India: New Zealand claimed a sixth successive OFC U-17 Championship win but victory in Tahiti was not without its challenges. They topped their group with three successive wins, but victory in the decisive semi-final against Papua New Guinea was in doubt until injury time when New Zealand found a winner. Having secured passage to India, the Kiwis celebrated in style with an outstanding 7-0 win over New Caledonia in the final.

The Coach: Danny Hay is heading to his second successive FIFA U-17 World Cup after leading the team into the last-16 at Chile 2015. This, however, will be his first full cycle with the team, having been appointed in April 2015, after the qualifying tournament. A former centre-back, Hay enjoyed a distinguished international playing career that included the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup and captaining his country.

The Stat: 27 – New Zealand scored 27 goals in just five qualifying matches, yet two of their wins were by a single goal.


Turkey


FIFA U-17 World Cup record: Turkey have qualified for the World Cup finals in this age group on just two previous occasions. At Peru 2005 they reached the semi-final, suffering a narrow 4-3 defeat at the hands of Brazil before losing the Third Place match 2-1 against the Netherlands. Four years later in Nigeria, the Turks were unlucky to lose 5-3 on penalties to Colombia in the quarter-finals.

Road to India: After a six-year absence at continental level, Turkey were the surprise package of the UEFA European U-17 Championship 2017 in Croatia. In a group containing eventual champions Spain (who defeated Turkey 3-2) and Italy (beaten 2-1 by Turkey), the team finished second behind the Iberians. They then secured a narrow 1-0 victory against Hungary in the last eight to book their place at this year’s U-17 World Cup before suffering a 2-1 defeat by England in the semi-final.

The Coach: Mehmet Hacioglu has been at the helm of Turkey’s U-17 team since 2014. Born in Bulgaria, he represented top Istanbul club Fenerbahce during his playing days and eventually moved to the sidelines to manage sides such as the Feners’ U-20s.

The Stat: 1 – Turkey have one continental crown to their name after lifting the trophy in Italy in 2005. Their standout performer was Nuri Sahin, who, after being recognised as player of the tournament that year, went on to become his country’s youngest ever international player and goalscorer and build a successful career at teams such as Real Madrid, Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund.

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