FIFA U-17 World Cup: Heavyweights in action, India eyes surprise win on opening day

Brazil will start the tournament with the first match in Odisha, against debutant Morocco. The North African nation will face an uphill battle against the 2022 CONMEBOL U-17 Champion.

Indian U-17 women players warm up during a training session on the eve of their first match of FIFA U-17 World Cup match against the USA at Capital High School Ground, in Bhubaneswar, October 10, Monday, 2022. 

Indian U-17 women players warm up during a training session on the eve of their first match of FIFA U-17 World Cup match against the USA at Capital High School Ground, in Bhubaneswar, October 10, Monday, 2022.  | Photo Credit: PTI

Brazil will start the tournament with the first match in Odisha, against debutant Morocco. The North African nation will face an uphill battle against the 2022 CONMEBOL U-17 Champion.

The FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup – a tournament that has historically produced stars of the game – will see its seventh edition kick-off in India on October 11, 2022.

Three stadiums – Kalinga Stadium (Bhubaneswar), DY Patil Stadium (Navi Mumbai) and Pandit Jawaharlal Stadium (Goa) – will host 36 matches, with 16 teams from around the world set to battle it out to become young world champions.

World Cup Groups:
Group A: India, USA, Brazil, Morocco
Group B: Germany, New Zealand, Chile, Nigeria
Group C: Spain, Colombia, Mexico, China
Group D: Japan, Tanzania, Canada, France

Four matches will be played on an opening day, with all teams from Group A and Group B playing in Bhubaneswar and Goa, respectively.

Also Read | Weather smiles upon Bhubaneswar as Odisha gears up for FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup

India to start its campaign against the USA

The Indian women’s U-17 team will look to start the World Cup with an upset as it takes on the United States of America in its opening fixture.

Despite qualifying as the host, India has been in preparation for the World Cup throughout the year, travelling to Italy (6th Female Torneo) in June, to Norway (Open Nordic Tournament) in July and to Spain most recently last month.

Thomas Dennerby – its head coach – has been a prominent name in women’s football after he guided Sweden to third place in the Women’s World Cup in 2011 and Nigeria to the Round of 16 in 2019.

“Our preparations have been really good. We started in late February this year and up to now, we have almost 270 sessions, that include running, football, and technical meetings. Of course, the girls have developed a lot,” he said before the match.

“One thing that everybody will see tomorrow is that it will be hard to score against us and if we can utilise our own chances, there’s a good chance to come out with points from the USA.

Definitely, the USA will come into the game as favourites, but the game starts tomorrow nil-nil. If we only focus on our performance, we have a chance and if we get a chance we will take it,” he added.

India is grouped alongside the USA, Brazil and Morocco and will play all of its group-stage matches at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.

“If India can have a successful tournament if we can take this team to the quarterfinals… for me personally, it will be as big as taking Sweden to the World Cup bronze medal 2011,” Dennerby said.

Before the match, he also said that if his team can make it to the quarterfinals, it will be – for him personally – a success equivalent to the World Cup bronze medal with Sweden in 2011.

Choosing attacking options for the young Tigresses will be a cakewalk, as Lynda Kom Serto – the standout performer of the team at the age-group tournaments and most recently at the U18 SAFF Championship – will be the head of the attack.

However, the team will rue the absence of midfielder Martina Thokchom – who crossed the age threshold by one year – and instead, is expected to start with a midfield double pivot of Babina Devi and Shilky Devi Hemam.

The United States, on the other hand, will look to forget its nightmare in the tournament last time around, when it was knocked out of the World Cup after finishing at the bottom of its group.

The fresh batch of players, under former Barcelona head coach Natalia Astrain, has looked extremely aggressive up the pitch and clinical in set-pieces.

“We are here to change our history (in the World Cup),” she told the press. “Every team in the group poses different challenges. We respect them, but we will give our best here.”

At the U-17 CONCACAF Championship – which also served as the qualifying tournament for the World Cup – USA scored 58 goals in seven matches and the only goal it conceded, was in the final against Mexico.

Three more battles on Day 1: Brazil, Germany and Nigeria in action

The World Cup will start with Brazil taking on Morocco at the Kalinga Stadium, which will be followed by India’s match.

Morocco is the first team from North Africa to qualify for the tournament and will be up against a team that netter 33 goals in seven matches in the qualifying tournament for the World Cup.

“We are quite excited and we will try to do the impossible,” quipped Anthony Rimasson, the head coach of Morocco.

“We went to Goa and we played Chile to prepare for the World Cup and have also prepared the team for the humidity here,” he added.

The weather has been a talking point for every coach here, with Simone Gomez Jatoba (Brazil) also talking about the challenges of adapting to it.

Also Read | Dennerby: India U-17 defensively strong, will be hard to score against

“The climate here has been very different to the one we started preparing in; it is much warmer and more humid, but every weather has its charms. We have had two practice sessions and it has helped us to identify how difficult it is to come from our county and adapt here, from 18-20 degrees,” she said.

The other two games on the opening day of the World Cup will be played in Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Margao, Goa.

New Zealand, which finished third in the last edition of the tournament, will play Chile, while three-time quarterfinalist Nigeria will face Germany, which enters the tournament as one of the favourites.

Match Schedule:
Morocco vs Brazil – Kalinga Stadium – 4:30 pm kick off
India vs USA – Kalinga Stadium – 8:00 pm kick off
Chile vs New Zealand – Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium – 4:30 pm kick off
Germany vs Nigeria – Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium – 8:00 pm kick off
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