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: Korea DPR’s first bid for the FIFA U-17 World Cup dates all the way back to 1986. However, maiden qualification didn’t come until 2004 when the Young Chollima finished the Asian campaign as runners-up. After emulating the same feat two years later, Korea DPR won their first continental title in 2010 to seal their appearance at Mexico 2011. They have progressed beyond the group phase on three occasions – 2005, 2007 and also 2015 where they were eliminated in the Round of 16 by eventual runners-up Mali.
Road to India: Of the four Asian qualifiers for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, Korea DPR were arguably the least impressive. Aside from a 4-1 win over Thailand, Korea DPR displayed trademark pragmatism with goalscoring at a premium. They defeated Yemen 2-0 but rounded out the group campaign with a 3-1 defeat by Uzbekistan. Qualification for India 2017 came via a penalty shoot-out win over Oman, before a defeat on penalties against Iran in the semi-final.
The Coach: Korea DPR’s Yun Jong Su is a highly experienced figure in his native land having enjoyed a lengthy international playing career, before embarking on a prosperous coaching career. He featured in several FIFA World Cup™ campaigns commencing with qualifiers for Mexico 86. As a coach he led the senior national team during 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and has coached extensively at youth international level, with an AFC U-20 Championship win in 2010 perhaps his most notable success.
The Stat: 2 – Despite reaching the semi-finals of the AFC U-16 Championship, Korea DPR won just two of their five matches.
FIFA U-17 World Cup record: There is a first for everything. The FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 will see Niger make their debut on the world stage, having never previously appeared at a FIFA competition in any age group.
Road to India: Following their 1-0 defeat of Niger in the first leg of their second round qualifier for the 2017 CAF U-17 Africa Cup of Nations, two-time reigning world champions Nigeria would have been confident that their experience would take them through to the next round. They reckoned without Abdoul Karim Tinni Sanda’s 90th-minute strike in the return leg, however, a goal that gave Niger a shock aggregate win. The Junior Menas backed up that performance by going on to reach the last four of the continental finals, a surprise run that secured them a place at India 2017. The Nigeriens did not have it easy against Africa’s finest, drawing 2-2 with Angola in their opening group match in Gabon before losing 1-0 to Mali. That left them needing to beat Tanzania to advance to the semis, a task they achieved thanks to Ibrahim Boubacar Marou’s solitary goal. Beaten 6-5 on penalties by Ghana after a goalless semi-final, Niger then went down 3-1 to Guinea in the match for third place, though they had already achieved their lofty objective by then.
The Coach: Tiemogo Soumaila was already a hero of Nigerien football even before leading the Junior Menas to India 2017. A former captain of the senior national team, Soumaila was a defender noted for his solidity on the ground and his prowess in the air, qualities that earned him the nickname ‘The Emperor’. A physical education and sports teacher, on account of football being an amateur sport in Niger at the time, he took up coaching after retiring from the game, taking courses in Europe and Brazil before being appointed Niger’s national director of football in 1995. The 1990s also saw him occupy the role of head coach. Now 54, he combines his duties as Niger’s U-17 coach with his post as the head of the Atcha Academie training centre.
The Stat: 1 – This is the first time Niger have qualified for a World Cup finals competition and it will most likely not be the last. A number of development programmes have been implemented in the country in recent years, while a new national academy – funded by the FIFA Goal Project – was opened by President Gianni Infantino in March 2017.
FIFA U-17 World Cup record: Brazil are a formidable force in the age group, having won the FIFA U-17 World Cup three times and only missed the finals once, an appearance record that only USA have matched to date. The Brazilians’ three competition wins came in 1997, 1999 and 2003, and they lie second on the tournament’s roll of honour behind Nigeria, who have won it five times. A Canarinha also finished runners-up in 1995 and 2005, third in 1985 and fourth in 2011. That solitary absence came at Japan 1993.
The Road to India: Brazil went unbeaten in lifting this year’s South American U-17 title, winning seven of their matches and drawing the other two. Their domination of the competition was underlined by the fact that they scored more goals than any other side (24), conceded fewer (three) and boasted both the leading goalscorer (Vinicius, with seven) and the player providing most assists (Alan, with five). The Brazilians clinched the continental title with a 5-0 defeat of hosts Chile, the only side that could have denied them it.
The Coach: After doing a solid job in the youth ranks at Vitoria, Carlos Amadeu took charge of the Brazil U-17 side in May 2015, in the lead-up to the U-17 World Cup in Chile that year, where he steered the team to the last eight before they were knocked out by eventual champions Nigeria. Revealing his coaching philosophy to FIFA.com at the time, he said: “My priority is to play attacking football in the true Brazilian style, as well as to win, because our culture is also about targeting first place.”
The Stat: 7 – the number of clean sheets Brazil kept in the South American qualifiers, with all those games ending in victory for them.
FIFA U-17 World Cup record: Despite their record haul of three UEFA European U-17 Championships, and five other titles when the event was still an U-16 tournament (also a record), Spain have never managed to capture the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Runners-up in 1991, 2003 and 2007, La Rojita have curiously failed to qualify since finishing third in 2009.
Road to India: The Spanish booked their ticket for India 2017 by claiming another European U-17 crown in Croatia in May. It was touch and go on this occasion, with Nacho Diaz equalising in injury time in the final to deny England, who had led since the 58th minute. Spain then emerged victorious from the ensuing penalty shoot-out (4-1), the second time in the tournament they had held their nerve in such a manner, having seen off Germany via spot kicks in the semi-finals (0-0, 4-2 on pens). These two testing victories had been preceded by a group stage that was notable for wins over Turkey (3-2) and Italy (3-1), and a draw with hosts Croatia (1-1), as well as a comfortable quarter-final success versus France (3-1).
The Coach: As a former Spain international and Atletico Madrid defender, with whom he played for eight seasons and achieved a Spanish League and Cup double in 1996, Santi Denia is accustomed to intense levels of pressure. A native of Albacete, where he began and ended his footballing career, he moved into coaching in 2009. At Atletico, he fulfilled the role of assistant to Abel Resino and of caretaker coach for one match, and was then handed the reins of the Spanish U-16 side in 2010. He continued on with the U-17 team the following year, and has remained in place ever since. Following his charges’ recent continental success in Croatia, he stated: “The tournament was very open and the results came down to minor details in the end. The most important thing is that the squad held firm. The team was mentally strong, but also played some good football – that’s what we’re known for.”
The Stat: 6 – The number of minutes of stoppage time that had been played in the final of the 2017 European U-17 Championship between Spain and England when substitute Nacho Diaz headed home from a corner to make it 2-2. The lively No11 made quite an impact, despite having only been on the pitch for eight minutes!