Team analysis: Group F

England is playing in the tournament for the fourth time after having started off in Korea in 2007. Will the Young Lions be able to carry their European Championship form into the World Cup? They are in a strong group that has Mexico, Chile and Iraq.

Jadon Sancho is known for his brilliant striking skills. He was the Player of the Tournament in the Under-17 European Championship.   -  Getty Images

England: How best can the young lions roar?

England made its debut in the Under-17 World Cup barely a decade ago. That was quite a late entry considering the 32-year history of the tournament. This will be the fourth occasion that the Young Lions will be playing in the event after having started off in Korea in 2007.

England's best performance in the championship is its appearance in the quarterfinals in 2007, where it lost to Germany. The Young Lions were to be haunted again by Germany in the same stage in the 2011 edition. In Chile in 2015, England failed to impress, as it crashed out in the group stage.

Road to Finals: England missed out on the chance to win a record third title in the UEFA Under-17 Championship when it lost to Spain in the final on penalties in Croatia. As a pre-tournament favourite, England’s defeat in the final came as a big disappointment. However, the team ensured its berth in the World Cup by defeating the Republic of Ireland in the quarterfinals of the Under-17 European Championship and reaching the final by beating Turkey.

Stars to watch:

Jadon Sancho is a big name already for his brilliant striking skills that earned him a contract with the Manchester City youth team. Sancho was the player of the tournament in the Under-17 European Championship, where he scored five goals and had an equal number of assists. Sancho will be looking for good support in the attack from Rhian Brewster, who is another good forward with an eye for scoring goal. England also has a fantastic attacking midfielder in Angel Gomes, who is considered one of the best youth prospects to graduate from the Manchester United Academy in recent times.

Another notable name in the midfield is Phil Foden, who is from the Manchester City academy. He has impressed the Man City coach Pep Guardola with his versatility.

The Coach: Steve Cooper succeeded Neil Dewsnip after the World Cup in Chile. Cooper became the Liverpool FC Academy manager after handling a host of coaching assignments with youth sides in the region. The Welshman was the coach of the England Under-16 side in 2014 before taking charge of the Under-17 team a year later.

 

Will there be a Mexican wave?

Mexico is among the most successful sides in the Under-17 World Cup history with two titles and a runner-up finish, behind Nigeria (five titles), Brazil (three titles) and Ghana (two titles and two runner-up finishes). Mexico’s improvement was remarkable by the turn of the decade, when under the stewardship of coach Raul Gutierrez the team won its second title, at home in 2011. The period from 2010-2013 is considered the golden era in Mexico’s Under-17 football history. Gutierrez’s boys made their second successive final appearance in 2013 in the UAE, where they fell to a superior Nigeria 3-0. In 2014 in Chile, Mexico finished fourth.

Road to Finals:

Mexico is the current continental champion. It won the title defeating the US in Panama earlier this year. Mexico impressed with its resilience, as the team got the better of all the sides in its path. It only lost to America (4-3) in an absorbing group stage clash. The El Tri later scored comprehensive wins against El Salvador and Jamaica to reach the classification stage, where it demolished Costa Rica and pipped host Panama to ensure the title clash with the US.

Showing the resolve of a champion, Mexico fired a stoppage-time equaliser against the US before pushing the match into the shoot-outs. It then won the tie-breaker to seal its seventh CONCACAF Under-17 Championship. Mexico scored an impressive 22 goals in just six games on road to the title.

Stars to watch:

Jairo Torres, who won the Best Player of the Tournament award in the continental championship, remains one of the best hopes in the Mexican attack. The versatile striker has already turned professional having signed for the Mexican top league side, Club Atlas. Diego Lainez is the other big name in the side and part of the team’s formidable attack. Completing the offensive line-up of Mexico is Roberto De La Rosa, who is another fine player with spectacular skills.

The Coach: Mexico has retained Mario Arteaga, the coach who guided the team to fourth-place finish in the previous World Cup in Chile. The 46-year-old has himself been a national youth team player, representing Mexico at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He is considered the right successor to Gutierrez, who inspired excellence in the Mexican team.

Iraq can shake up the group

The war-hit Iraq made its only FIFA Under-17 World Cup appearance four years ago in the UAE, where it finished last in Group F. However, the performance might not seem as bad if one takes into account that Iraq had lost to Sweden, Mexico and Nigeria — the sides that claimed the first, second and third spots respectively in the tournament.

Mohammed Dawood was the leading goal-scorer in the 2016 AFC Championship. The Iraq forward is gifted with a strong physique and good pace.   -  K. Murali Kumar

 

Road to Finals: The Iraq team (also known as Usood Al-Rafidainmeaning Lions of Mesopotamiahad a good run in its quest for a place in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in India. After taking the second spot in Group C in the AFC Under-16 Championship last year, it got the better of Uzbekistan in the quarterfinals to make it to the World Cup. In the semifinals, Iraq stunned Japan before outwitting Iran in a thrilling title clash via the penalty shoot-out following a goalless regulation period.

Stars to watch: Iraq’s biggest star is forward Mohammed Dawood, who emerged the leading goal-scorer in the 2016 AFC Championship. With a strong physique and good pace, Dawood, who failed to score in the first two matches, found the mark against Oman in the team’s final group match. A brace against Uzbekistan and a hat-trick against Japan helped Iraq remain on course. The performance earned Dawood the Player of the Tournament award.

Midfielders Saif Shayyal, an attacking player, and Al-Elayawi, who is as good as Dawood in one-on-one situations, are quite competent. The two along with Dawood make the Iraqi attack formidable.

The Coach: Qahtan Jathir’s biggest success as coach so far is leading Iraq to its maiden title in the AFC Under-16 Championship last year.

Jathir, who began his playing career with the Iraq club, Al Talaba, gained good experience while playing in Qatar and the UAE. He also donned the Iraq colours in the AFC Asian Cup in 2000. After retiring 10 years ago, Jathir took up the job of coaching and managing clubs like Al-Sinaa, Al-Najaf and Al-Shorta.

Chile: Eyeing for glory in India

This will be Chile’s fourth appearance in the Under-17 World Cup and second in a row. It first played in the tournament in 1993 in Japan, where it earned a creditable third-place finish. It is Chile’s best-ever finish in the event. The team could not go beyond the group stage in the 1997 edition in Egypt and made it to the last 16 when it hosted the tournament in 2015.

Road to Finals: Chile took the second place in the South American Under-17 championship to qualify for the World Cup. It remained unbeaten to claim the top spot in Group A, and defeated Venezuela and Colombia in the ensuing six-team round before going down to Paraguay. A victory against Ecuador helped Chile vie for the title and most importantly book its ticket to India. However, Brazil pipped Chile to emerge the continental champion.

Stars to watch: Ignacio Mesias, a product of Deportivo Union San Felipe club, is the most important name among Chile’s strike force. He first got a call-up for the national under-17 side after the continental championship during the summer in the southern hemisphere. Mesias netted three goals in two matches in the Torneo de 4 Naciones in July in Mexico (where India and Colombia also participated) to showcase his potential. He will have a prominent role to play in Chile’s scheme of things.

Winger Pedro Campos, who has been nurturing high ambitions of playing for his elite National team, has been an integral part of the Chilean side since the South American under-17 championship. The versatile Campos can play on both flanks and may prove to be a tormentor for rival teams because of his lightning pace and deceptive skills.

The Coach: Hernan Caputo may be a former Argentinian goalkeeper, but he understands the Chilean ethos well because of his 15-year career in Chile. Now holding a Chilean passport, Caputo first started coaching the country’s under-15 team in 2013, two years after his retirement. After relinquishing that responsibility towards the end of 2015, Caputo took up the job of coaching the under-17 side in March 2016. The 42-year-old succeeded in his first task of helping the team to qualify for the Under-17 World Cup after exactly 20 years and he would now be eyeing to corner more glory in India.

Read Team Analysis: Group A

Read Team Analysis: Group B

Read Team Analysis: Group C

Read Team Analysis: Group D

Read Team Analysis: Group E