The FIFA U-17 World Cup is here, and it’s a special tournament for two reasons.
India is participating in its first ever World Cup at any level and is hosting it as well. It begins October 6, at 5pm, from the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in the capital, where Colombia will take on Ghana in the Group A match.
There are 6 cities that will host these 24 teams, which does not include Nigeria, the defending champions, who failed to qualify for this edition, the first time this has occurred since 2009, when Switzerland failed to qualify.
New Delhi kicks off the tournament, with Mumbai, Guwahati, Kochi, Margao and Kolkata the other cities decided as venues for the competition. Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata is the venue for the final, which will be played on October 28, and will hopefully feature India.
The 23 nations who earned their places in the tournament are Mexico, Brazil, USA, Ghana, Colombia, Niger, Spain, Japan, Iraq, Turkey, Honduras, Mali, Paraguay, Guinea, Chile, New Caledonia, England, New Zealand, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Costa Rica, France, Iran and Germany, with India, the host nation, making up the 24 teams who will fight for glory.
The draw has thrown up some interesting ties, details for all can be found on the FIFA website, but in poetic fashion, Group D, has been dubbed the Group of Death, with Niger, Brazil, DPRK and Spain set to battle it out, in what will be a group full of tense encounter.
Indian fans will get to see a glimpse of Vinicius Junior, the 17-year-old Brazilian whiz-kid who earned himself a mega money move to Real Madrid over the summer, but will continue his development at Flamengo for another year.
The England team has also named a very strong line up, with players from all of the top clubs in the country.
Future FC Vitesse players Marc Guéhi, Jonathan Panzo, Connor Gallagher, Callum Hudson Odoi and brother of former Chelsea player Joshua McEachran, George McEachran, make up the Chelsea quintet.
Manchester City’s promising youngster Phil Foden is in the squad as well, and will be one of the main attractions and should take his chances with both feet, given youth may not get too much of a chance at the Etihad a for a few years.
Manchester United’s Angel Gomes, who became the first player born in the 21st Century to play in the Premier League, after he came on for, in biblical fashion, for Wayne Rooney (his last appearance for the club), with a proper change of guard, is also in the squad and is the sole representative of the Red Devils.
Former Manchester City wonderkid Jordan Sancho, who now plays for Bourssia Dortmund was not in the squad, but was given permission to join up recently, just for the group stages, will also be looking for the limelight.
As far as the Indian National Team goes, goalkeeper Dheeraj Moirangthem looks like the real deal and has made more appearances for India than other keeper at this level, and will hopefully make a break out. Striker Aniket Jadhav will be the talisman and the one India look up to, to fire them until the very end, and the Pune FC youth player will be looking to prove a point. The team is well drilled, and well coached, with their Route One and crossing approach, it should be a good test for them and although the odds are stacked against them, it will be a very fulfilling experience for the Blues. A special mention to the North-East region of India, who have produced the most players who are part of the squad for the World Cup, making up nearly 50%; which is a good sign for the local clubs in that region. Maybe the other parts should be looking to their coaching infrastructure and routines to take us to the next level.
Chile and Brazil are favourites, and while the Young Lions of England are spurred on by their media as always, New Zealand seem to be the dark horses, with Germany, France, Spain and Costa Rica all looking to leave their mark on the tournament.
The matches will be live and telecast on the Sony Network, in Standard and High Definition quality and while it may not be the most extravagant and larger than life event, it is a giant leap for India and for the rise of the popular sport in the world, in the sub-continent and we should be proud of the boys and hope they do as well as they possibly can.
It is an emotional and important event for the sport in the country, we must go in supporting our team, and maybe the football level and quality might just surprise us.
The FIFA U-17 World Cup is the beginning of hopefully the initial steps in the right direction to help India compete and make a great mark for themselves in the football world. It is the first ever World Cup we are participating in and we must answer the call and be proud of our achievements and watch and support the country for how far it has come and enjoy the beautiful football we will witness over the next 3 weeks. #BackTheBlues