India to face USA in first match of 2017 FIFA U-17 WC

India was drawn to take on the CONCACAF under-16 runner-up USA in the opening encounter on October 6 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. The other two teams in Group A are Colombia, which finished third in the South American qualifiers, and Ghana, which lost the Africa U-17 Cup final to Mali.

India skipper Sunil Chhetri was present at the FIFA U-17 World Cup draw in Mumbai.   -  AIFF

India, a country of a billion, gearing up to take part in its first FIFA event, the under-17 World Cup, was handed a tough draw here today. 

In a star-studded draw ceremony, which had Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri, Rio Olympics silver medallist in badminton, P. V. Sindhu, and football greats Nwankwo Kanu and Esteban Cambiasso in attendance, the host nation was drawn to take on the CONCACAF under-16 runner-up, USA, in the opening encounter on October 6 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. The other two teams in Group A are Colombia, which finished third in the South American qualifiers, and Ghana, which lost the Africa U-17 Cup final to Mali.  

The three teams have a rich football legacy and the Indians will find it tough to manage positive results and make it past the group phase. The United States, which has participated in 15 of the 16 U-17 World Cups, will pose a formidable challenge to Luis Norton de Matos’ boys and an unfavourable result in the first match of the tournament might set the tone, albeit the wrong one, for India.

The coach, however, is optimistic about putting the best foot forward. “It’s a World Cup and you don’t expect easy matches. But, there is nothing impossible in football. We know our opponents are strong, they play different types of football,” de Matos said. “Our boys are not scared. We will prepare diligently and will approach each game with an aim to win.”

The most mouth-watering clash of the group phase, however, will see three-time U-17 champion, Brazil, take on Spain, the European titleholder, in the opening encounter of Group D at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on the second day of the competition. The South American winner will fancy its chances of making it past the group phase, with DPR Korea and debutant Niger taking up the other two spots in the group.   

African champion, Mali is also likely to find an easy way to the knockout stage, as it will take on Paraguay, New Zealand and Turkey in Group B. Iraq, which won the Asian under-16 tournament in Goa last year, is clubbed in Group D with Mexico, Chile and England, while Group C has Iran, Guinea, Germany and Costa Rica. Japan, which had an impressive AFC under-16 outing, scoring 24 goals in five matches, before losing to Iraq in the semifinals, will have Honduras, debutant New Caledonia, and France for company in Group E.


GROUP A

A1. India - First match of this year's World Cup will see India take on USA on October 6.
A2. USA
A3. Colombia - Finished third in South American U-17 Championship.
A4. Ghana - Two-time champion, making an appearance here after a decade.
 

GROUP B
B1. Paraguay
B2. Mali - Last year's runner-up
B3. New Zealand
B4. Turkey

GROUP C
C1. Iran - Finalist of AFC U-16 Championship
C2. Guinea
C3. Germany
C4. Costa Rica - Was a quarterfinalist in the previous edition.

GROUP D

D1. Korea DPR - Making its fourth appearance in the FIFA U-17 WC.
D2. Niger - First time it is participating in the competition.
D3. Brazil - Three-time champion
D4. Spain

GROUP E
E1. Honduras
E2. Japan - Has played seven editions of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
E3. New Caledonia - First appearance in a FIFA competition. 
E4. France

GROUP F
F1. Iraq
F2. Mexico
F3. Chile
F4. England