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.
FIFA U-17 World Cup record: Having played no part in the opening two decades of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, Honduras have been something of a mainstay over the past ten years. Los Catrachos graced the event for the first time at Korea Republic 2007 and, while they failed to win a game there or next time out at Nigeria 2009, they reached the quarter-finals at UAE 2013 having missed out on Mexico 2011. Last time out, the Hondurans once more failed to register a win, bowing out at the group stages of Chile 2015.
Road to India: Honduras finished second behind a dominant Costa Rica in the central American zone qualifiers to reach the CONCACAF U-17 Championship. Once at the finals, they were defeated by hosts Panama, but recovered by beating Curacao and Haiti to reach the classification round. A hugely impressive 7-1 victory over Cuba, with Carlos Mejia and Patrick Palacios both grabbing hat tricks, teed up their progression to India, despite a 3-0 defeat to USA.
The Coach: Jose Valladares is vastly experienced at this age level, having taken charge of Los Catrachosat both UAE 2013 and Chile 2015. Also on his CV is a brief stint in charge of Nicaraguan side CD Walter Ferretti, who he steered to a second place finish in the country’s top flight last year.
The Stat: 7 – The number of matches it took for Honduras to win their first U-17 World Cup game. Their seventh match at the global finals was against the hosts at UAE 2013, with Brayan Velasquez’s 86th minute winner securing the historic victory.
FIFA U-17 World Cup record: Japan will be featuring in their eighth FIFA U-17 World Cup in India, having reached the quarter-finals on two occasions. The East Asians, under Tadatoshi Komine, shone on their global debut in 1993 where they reached the last-eight as hosts. On the way they drew 0-0 with Italy and saw off Mexico 2-1 to seal progression, only to be eliminated by eventual champions Nigeria by the same scoreline. They emulated that feat at Mexico 2011, progressing to the Round of 16 after winning a tough group which also featured Argentina, France and Jamaica. The Japanese then fired six unanswered goals past New Zealand, but were edged out by Brazil 3-2 to miss out on a place in the last four. They made a cleansweep of the group stage at UAE 2013 only to lose against Sweden in the Round of 16.
Road to India: After missing qualification for the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup, Japan impressed in the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship earning a ticket to India 2017 in style. They topped their group in remarkable fashion with thumping wins overs Australia, Vietnam and Kyrgyzstan. A tough 1-0 win over United Arab Emirates in the quarter-final secured passage to the world stage but Japan, however, were undone by an in-form Iraq.
The Coach: Hirofumi Yoshitake boasts lengthy experience of what it takes to achieve success at this level, having led the team in both the 2011 and 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cups. Yoshitake, who names Johan Cruyff’s Netherlands side of the 1970s as his biggest influence, led Japan to their best U-17 achievement of recent years – a quarter-final appearance in 2011.
The Stat: 24 – Japan were comfortably top goalscorers in the AFC U-16 Championship. They netted an incredible 24 goals in just five games to score almost twice as many as any of their rivals.
FIFA U-17 World Cup record: New Caledonia will be making their debut at a FIFA tournament when they take the field at India 2017. Despite being Oceania’s newest member – they were admitted to FIFA only in 2004 – New Caledonia boast a rich football history. The Federation was founded in 1928 with teams from Australia and New Zealand touring in the immediate decades which followed. New Caledonia competed in the initial OFC U-17 Championship in 1983 (which then a U-16 event), and they reached the final in 2003 though were ineligible to qualify for the World Cup at that point.
Road to India: New Caledonia were made to work overtime to earn their ticket to India. They collected tough one goal wins over Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, sandwiched either side of a draw against hosts Tahiti. That undefeated group stage campaign set up a semi-final meeting against Solomon Islands, with New Caledonia collecting World Cup qualification with a 3-2 win that was more comfortable than the scoreline indicated. Having achieved their primary aim, New Caledonia capitulated to a 7-0 defeat against New Zealand in the championship decider in what was their fifth match in 14 days.
The Coach: Dominique Wacalie assumed the reins from Michael Clarque in April 2017, with the latter having led the team through their historic qualification campaign earlier in the year. One of the nation’s young brigade of coaches, Wacalie previously held the role of regional Technical Director in New Caledonia. A former midfielder, Wacalie retired only in 2014 having featured in Les Cagous’ 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ campaign after a career that included several years in France’s lower leagues.
The Stat: 6 – New Caledonia’s qualification means they will become the sixth current OFC member to feature in a FIFA World Cup.
FIFA U-17 World Cup record: Having only featured in five of the 16 editions of the tournament to date, France cannot be described as FIFA U-17 World Cup stalwarts. However, their triumph at Trinidad and Tobago 2001, which followed a 14-year absence from the competition, suggested that the importance of previous performances is arguably overplayed. Whatever the case may be, aside from that run to glory inspired by Anthony Le Tallec and Florent Sinama-Pongolle, Les Bleuets have never gone beyond the quarter-finals. The most recent example came at Chile 2015, where Costa Rica knocked them out on penalties in the Round of 16.
Road to India: France must have feared having to watch the competition from afar again when they succumbed 3-1 to Spain in the last eight of this year’s UEFA U-17 European Championship, with only the four semi-finalists automatically gaining a seat on the plane to India. The fifth and final ticket was contested in a play-off between the two best losing quarter-finalists, with France’s record in the group stage (a 3-2 defeat by Hungary followed by 7-0 and 2-1 wins over Faroe Islands and Scotland respectively) good enough to earn them another bite of the cherry. Les Bleuets made the most of this second chance, exacting revenge on the Hungarians by prevailing 1-0 courtesy of Amine Gouiri’s strike.
The Coach: When he was appointed in 2015, Lionel Rouxel already boasted a wealth of experience coaching fledgling talents, having spent eight years in charge of the U-18s at Guingamp. This was a familiar environment for the former forward, who made his debut as a player at the Breton outfit and went on to enjoy four superb seasons there, striking up a lethal partnership with Stephane Guivarc’h that was instrumental in the club’s meteoric rise from the French third division to the UEFA Cup. Now he is preparing for his first taste of the global stage, at the helm of an organised, yet ambitious side. “We subscribe to the premise that if we play good football, we’ll have a better chance of going far,” he said when asked to outline his philosophy ahead of the EURO. “But you also have to be solid defensively and capable of scoring goals at any time.”
The Stat: 9 – Star attacker Gouiri scored a record-breaking nine times in five matches at the 2017 U-17 EURO in Croatia, eclipsing the tally of eight goals that compatriot Odsonne Edouard racked up at the 2015 tournament.