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7 Players to Watch at the U17 World Cup 2017 in India

Brian Hradek highlights seven players who could make an impact at the U17 World Cup 2017

The U17 World Cup seems to go under the radar for the most part around the world of football. However, it has consistently showcased some of the brightest up and coming stars in the game. Previous Golden Ball winners of this tournament have included Toni Kroos, Kelechi Iheanacho, Cesc Fabregas, and Landon Donovan.

This year isn’t any different. The tournament did take a bit of a hit when Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior, a recent Real Madrid signing, wasn’t allowed to join Brazil due to his club Flamengo. However, there is still a long list of talented players who will look to steal the show in India. Here are seven of those players who could have the best chance to upstage the rest, and leave their mark on this years tournament.

Amine Gouiri // 17 //  Forward // France: The Golden Era for French football seems to have a never ending pipeline of young talent. Gouiri is an incredible finisher in and around the box. He’s a very good dribbler and likes to make runs in from the wings. His complete game is what makes him a deadly second striker as well, playing just in behind a first striker. He gets involved in link up play and and loves to set up teammates from just outside the box.

Takefusa Kubo // 16 // Attacking Midfielder // Japan: A creative left footed number 10 who started at La Masia, who unsurprisingly (as a result) is nicknamed “Japanese Messi.” Kubo is an absolute treat to watch. He has incredible footwork in tight areas, often wiggling his way out of two or three defenders. He’s not exceptionally fast, but is very good in short bursts. His issue is he really needs to work on his strength. Too often he loses his balance and coincidentally the ball when being jostled by bigger defenders.

Jadon Sancho // 17 // Winger // England: Jadon recently moved from Manchester City to Germany after the player failed to agree to a new contract at the Etihad. The talented winger is explosive with the ball on his foot. He has a significant bit of flair to his game, frequently dancing on the ball before blowing by a defender. A quality that one would love about him that many youngsters fail to have is his finishing while on the move. He can get his shot off when on the run and in tight spaces, with the ball often times finding the back of the net. He needs to work on his delivery of passes in the final third. He has the vision and creativity, just often not the talent to be able to complete what he sees in his mind.

Diego Lainez // 17 // Attacking Midfielder // Mexico: Many Mexican football fans think Diego Lainez is the answer to Christian Pulisic. The young number 10 broke on to the scene last season and hasn’t looked back. Diego Lainez loves to run with the ball on his feet, attacking defenders and putting them in uncomfortable situations. His incredible first touch often allows him to beat a tight defender within seconds though he needs to add strength and work on his final product. He’s unpredictable and creative in the final third, but would be a much more complete player if he finished off his runs with better balls.

Gaston Zuniga // 17 // Right Back //Chile: Zuniga is your perfect wing back in modern day football. He’s a multi dimensional talent who can dominate both sides of the pitch. He is aggressive in the defensive third and always going in for challenges and often winning them. He has the pro-typical Chilean football heart and work-rate. He’s very strong in the air even though he isn’t the biggest of stature. He loves to attack the ball at the near post of corners, scoring a few for the U17 national team recently. His crosses are arguably the best part of his game – he loves to send in an early cross, often times timing it up perfectly for his forward in the box.

Josh Sargent // 17 // Forward // USA: Sargent will be the main man up front for the USA in India, and will hopefully one day be the perfect forward to play in front of Christian Pulisic. Sargent is very strong in front of the net. He’s very composed for his age, not rushing when the ball gets to him in the box. His touch and skill allow him to create space if he needs to, he’s even pulled off a few Cryuff turns in the last 6 months or so for the U17 team. His ability to make runs off the back shoulder of defenders is something you see with top centre forwards. When it comes to his play with his back to net, he needs some work. However, while he doesn’t always hold the ball up as much as he should, he certainly doesn’t lack the strength by any means.

Alan // 17 //  Midfielder //Brazil: Alan will be the smallest player on the pitch 999 out of 1000 times, that doesn’t mean much to him though. The Brazilian midfielder loves to get in and make a strong tackle, often dispossessing the opponent before scooting away with the ball on his feet. Having the ball at his feet, is what might make him the most dangerous player in the tournament. His ability to control the game from the middle of the field is a joy to watch. His skill is mesmorizing to watch, getting the ball in the half spaces and making things happen before the other team even has a chance to settle. To top it all off, he’s easily one of the best young free kick takers in the world, a trait that could set up a once in a lifetime moment for him if Brazil make it deep into the tournament.

Read all our U17 World Cup coverage here

Brian Hradek

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