On October 6, 2017, the 17th edition of the biennial FIFA U17 World Cup will get underway.
What’s most notable, however, is that India will be the host nation for the football tournament for the first time in FIFA World Cup history.
In 87 years of tournament football, covering 77 World Cups across all ages and genders, India had never qualified for or hosted any of them. The 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup will be a historical occasion for a country that has struggled to advance the sport of football over a period of time.
52 – The number of match fixtures that will take place involving 24 qualified nations from 6 FIFA U17 confederations over 22 days across 6 host cities (New Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Navi Mumbai, Margao, and Kochi)
5 – The number of U17 World Cups won by Nigeria, the maximum. Brazil has won only 3, while Ghana has won 2. Nigeria has won 3 out of the last 4 U17 FIFA World Cups, but will not be defending their title as they failed to qualify for the 2017 event. The only time Nigeria hosted the event back in 2009, they lost to Switzerland in the final. African nations have dominated this tournament with 7 titles overall.
1 – Saudi Arabia is the only Asian team to have won the U17 FIFA World Cup, back in 1986, when it was a U16 tournament.
7 – The number of times India has participated in the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) U-16 Championships. They have made it past the first round once, back in 2002. They finished last in their group in the 2016 tournament.
2017 FIFA U17 World Cup Teams:
Group A: India, United States, Colombia, Ghana (favorites: Ghana)
Group B: Paraguay, Mali, New Zealand, Turkey (favorites: Mali – the 2015 finalists)
Group C: Iran, Guinea, Germany, Costa Rica (favorites: Costa Rica)
Group D: North Korea, Niger, Brazil, Spain (favorites: Brazil, Spain)
Group E: Honduras, Japan, New Caledonia, France (favorites: France)
Group F: Iraq, Chile, England, Mexico (favorites: Mexico)
Brazil (U-17 South American Champions); Ronaldinho played in the 1997 edition, and Neymar played in 2009.
World Cup Fixtures:
The two top teams from each group will move on to the Round of 16 knockout stages, while the four best third-placed teams will join them. This will be followed by the quarterfinals, semifinals, third-place match and final. The final will be held at Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on 28th October.
INDIA FIFA U17 World Cup Team:
India is easily the weakest team out of the 24 participating in the tournament. It is not expected to even draw a match against each of the other three nations in its group.
This U17 team’s record: 5 wins in 31 matches. Recent encouraging results include a 5-0 thrashing of minnows Bahrain, a 6-0 defeat of Lebanon, a 3-3 draw against mighty Saudi Arabia and a 1-1 draw against a second-string Chile side.
Captain: Suresh Singh Wangjam (midfielder)
Players to watch out for: Komal Thatal (winger; highest scorer so far with 8 goals), Boris Singh Thangjam (fullback), Aniket Jadhav (striker), goalie Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem
Coach: Portugal’s Luis Norton de Matos, who was appointed only seven months ago, after Germany’s Nicolai Adam (who had prepared the team from scratch since 2015) was forced to resign after players revolted against his ‘abusive’ methods
At long last, though, Indian football fans will be able to utter the words ‘India’ and ‘FIFA World Cup’ in the same breath. It’s about time!