FIFA U-17 World Cup: Group D - an assortment of delight and death

The group opener between Brazil, the South American champion and the greatest exponent of the beautiful game, and European winner Spain should be the most-awaited match of the World Cup.

Brazil, the South American champion and one of the greatest exponents of the game, will start as one of the tournament favourites.   -  Prashant Nakwe

This group appears to have it all. A three-time champion Brazil, a resurgent Spain, the mysterious North Korea and the newcomer Niger - the under-17 World Cup’s Group ‘D’ teams in Kochi certainly make an interesting mix.

Read: Vinicius Jr to miss FIFA U-17 World Cup

And the group opener between Brazil, the South American champion and the greatest exponent of the beautiful game, and European winner Spain should be the most-awaited match of the World Cup. Despite entering the final five times, Brazil has not got past the quarterfinal stage in the last two editions. But this time, the giant looks ready to lift the title though it will badly miss the services of Vinicius Junior, who has drawn comparisons to Neymar.

Read: Brazil rides on Brenner brace in practice game

The Spaniards,  on the other hand,  will be spearheaded  by Abel Ruiz. The 17-year-old FC Barcelona ‘B’ striker is the top goal-scorer in the under-17 UEFA European Championship history, with 16 goals, and is Spain’s top scorer ever in the under-17 category. Spain, a three-time runner-up (1991, 2003 and 2007), is returning to the World Cup after 2009 but now, under coach Santiago Denia Sanchez, it appears to have the team and the formula to make the knockout stage and climb higher too.

Read: Of football, families and school children

Niger, which jolted five-time World Cup champion Nigeria in the qualifying phase last year, could spring a surprise or two and make its first appearance in a FIFA event a memorable one. With the world looking anxiously at North Korea for several other reasons, little is known about the country’s current form or preparation for the World Cup. North Korea, whose best performance was a quarterfinal appearance in 2004, entered the pre-quarterfinal of the last edition in 2015,  and is also a former two-time AFC under-16 champion.

Game-changers to look forward to:

Abel Ruiz (Spain)

Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal were among the English Premier League giants keen to sign the FC Barcelona ‘B’ forward Abel Ruiz last year. They had good reason too for Abel is Spain’s all-time top scorer in under-17 history and is on top of the chart in the under-17 European Championship. He led Spain to victory in the under-17 European title a few months ago.

Abdoul Karim Tinni Sanda (Niger)


The 16-year-old Niger midfielder was in impressive form in the under-17 Africa Cup of Nations, scoring twice against Angola. His 90th-minute goal also played a crucial role as Niger shocked five-time World Cup winner Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifying phase.

Kim Pom Hyok (North Korea)


A fast and versatile player, North Korea’s Kim Pom Hyok is adept at moving forward to assist the attack and rushing back to defend. The North Koreans frequently rely on counter-attacks and Kim could be a key player in coach Yun Jong Sun’s plans. He was in good form in the Asian under-16 championship last year.

 

Springboard for success

Meanwhile, Brazilian legend Ronaldinho who won the country's maiden under-17 World Cup two decades ago in Egypt, said, "The U-17 World Cup can be crucial, as for many players it marks the start of their careers.

"Young players dream of making it big, and this competition gives them a fantastic opportunity to make that dream come true. It got my career off to a wonderful start and will always be close to my heart."

Group D

Korea DPR

Brazil

Niger

Spain

 

Schedule

Oct. 7

Brazil v Spain

5 p.m.

Korea DPR v Niger

8 p.m.

 

Oct. 10

Spain v Niger

5 p.m.

Korea DPR v Brazil

8 p.m.

 

Oct. 13

Niger v Brazil

Spain v Korea DPR

8 p.m.

 

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