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: Iraq have only one FIFA U-17 World Cup appearance to their name, at UAE 2013. That experience was not particularly memorable as they finished last in Group F. Iraq lost all three of their matches, against Sweden, Mexico and Nigeria, the teams that eventually claimed first, second and third place in the tournament.
Road to India: Iraq emerged victorious from the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship, defeating Iran in the final to become Asian champions for the first time. After finishing second in Group C, they saw off the challenge of Uzbekistan (2-0) in the quarter-finals, booking their berth at India 2017 in the process. In the last four, the young Iraqis eliminated Japan, prior to getting the better of Iran on penalties after the showpiece match had ended 0-0.
The Coach: Qahtan Jathir made history by guiding his charges to Iraq’s first-ever AFC U-16 Championship success in October 2016. His playing career began at Iraqi club Al Talaba, and also included spells in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, during which time he represented Iraq at the 2000 AFC Asian Cup. Jathir hung up his boots in 2007, and went on to coach Al-Sinaa, Al-Najaf and Al-Shorta.
The Stat: 6 – After failing to find the net in the first two matches of the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship, forward Mohammed Dawood made a welcome breakthrough against Oman in Iraq’s final group-stage match, and then notched a brace against Uzbekistan in the quarter-finals and a hat-trick versus Japan in the last four. This delayed burst of attacking play earned the striker the top goalscorer and player of the tournament awards.
FIFA U-17 World Cup record: Since the turn of the century, Mexico have enjoyed something of a golden era at U-17 level. Between 2010 and 2013, Raul Gutierrez continued the superb work of his predecessors, including their inaugural FIFA U-17 World Cup title at Peru 2005, by leading El Tri to a second world title on home soil in 2011. Two years later in the UAE, Gutierrez and his charges almost repeated the feat, only to lose 3-0 to a superb Nigeria in the final. It is testament to their recent success at this level that Mexico’s fourth-place finish at Chile 2015, losing to old foes Nigeria in the semi-finals, represented something of a disappointment for El Tri.
Road to India: Despite ultimately claiming the 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship, Mexico endured a few bumps along the road to India 2017. Pitted against old rivals USA in the initial group stage, they were defeated 4-3 by the Stars and Stripes in an epic encounter in Panama City. However, they made short work of almost all other opponents at Panama 2017, picking up comprehensive victories against El Salvador and Jamaica to reach the classification stage where they demolished Costa Rica and squeezed past the hosts to reach the continental final and the global finals. A stoppage-time equaliser against USA in the Panama 2017 final meant a penalty shootout, which El Tri won to seal their seventh U-17 continental title.
The Coach: Mario Arteaga took charge of Mexico last time out at Chile 2015, guiding the two-time champions to fourth place, following a thrilling semi-final defeat to eventual champions Nigeria and an equally exciting defeat in the play-off for third place to Belgium.
The Stat: 22 – The number of goals Mexico scored in just six games at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship, a tally not bettered by any of their opponents at the continental finals.
FIFA U-17 World Cup record: India 2017 will be Chile’s fourth appearance at a FIFA U-17 World Cup and their second in a row after hosting the tournament in 2015. Their tournament debut came at Japan 1993, where they took everyone by surprise in finishing third, their best performance to date. Knocked out in the group phase in Egypt 1997, the Chileans reached the last 16 on home soil two years ago.
Road to India: Chile qualified for the world finals by finishing runners-up in the South American U-17 Championship, which it hosted. After topping Group A, La Rojita beat Venezuela and Colombia 1-0 in the final six-team round before losing their unbeaten record in a 2-0 defeat to Paraguay. Another 1-0 win, this time over Ecuador, secured them a place at India 2017 and left them in with a chance of claiming the continental crown on the final day of the competition. It was not to be, however, as Brazil put one more goal past them than all their other opponents combined, running out 5-0 winners.
The Coach: Hernan Caputo is a former Argentinian goalkeeper who spent most of his 15-year career in Chile and took out Chilean nationality as a result. His first major coaching post came in 2013, two years after he retired, when he took charge of Chile’s U-15 side. Though he left the post in late 2015, he was appointed by the Chilean FA to the U-17 job in March 2016, a decision he justified by overseeing the team’s first successful qualifying campaign in the age group in 20 years.
The Stat: 1-0 – the scoreline in all five of Chile’s wins in the South American qualifiers.
FIFA U-17 World Cup record: Despite a strong tradition of qualifying for global finals in the senior and U-20 editions, England only reached their inaugural FIFA U-17 World Cup a decade ago, with India 2017 representing the Young Lions’ fourth outing on the global stage at this age level. Their debut at Korea 2007 saw a side including Danny Welbeck reach the quarter-finals where they were well beaten by Germany. At Mexico 2011, the Germans once more dispatched their English counterparts, who had Raheem Sterling amongst their number. Last time out, at Chile 2015, Neil Dewsnip’s side failed to reach the knockout stages.
Road to India: England headed into the 2017 UEFA U-17 European Championship finals full of confidence, thanks to a 100 per cent record in both the qualifying round and elite round. The Young Lions’ self-assuredness was fully justified as they missed out on the title at Croatia 2017 by a matter of seconds, due to a dramatic final against Spain. Having reached India 2017 by seeing off British Isles rivals Republic of Ireland in the quarter-final, and reaching the continental finale by defeating Turkey, Nacho Diaz’s equaliser in the sixth minute of stoppage time saw the final go to a penalty shootout. The Spaniards converted all four of their spot kicks to emerge victorious, with England only able to net a sole penalty in reply.
The Coach: After coaching varying youth sides at Liverpool before working his way up to the role of academy manager at the club, Steve Cooper took on the role of England U-16 coach in 2014 before graduating to the U-17 side a year later. The Welshman assumed full control of the U-17s after Dewsnip, who guided the Young Lions on an interim basis at Chile 2015, continued his work with the U-18s full time.
“We’ve qualified for the World Cup in India, which was one of the objectives of the tournament,” Cooper said after his side’s U-17 UEFA EURO final defeat to Spain. “We’ll continue with our work, everything that we do with the national teams is with the long term in mind.”
The Stat: 11 – matches won on the bounce by England throughout UEFA U-17 European Championship qualifying, elite rounds and the finals themselves before the 2-2 draw in the final against Spain, which preceded their penalty shootout heartbreak.