FIFA U17: First-timer Niger to test waters against North Korea

The game is a must-win for both teams, given that their group also features footballing heavyweights Brazil and Spain.

Soumaila, the Niger coach, has said his team wishes to at least reach the round of 16. Photo: H. Vibhu   -  THE HINDU

In a battle of minnows, first timer Niger takes on Korea DPR on Saturday at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. The game is a must-win for both teams, given that their group also features footballing heavyweights Brazil and Spain.

Niger comes into the tournament riding on a morale-boosting win over FIFA U-17 WC defending champion Nigeria in the qualification phase of the 2017 African Cup. “Even though we are pitted against Brazil and Spain, we want to reach at least the round of 16,” said a confident coach Tiemogo Soumaila, a former defender for the national side.

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The team is here to make a statement in its debut run, having gone through an extensive training routine ahead of the World Cup. “We initially played in Niger first-division teams. We then continued our training in Algeria and Morocco,” he said. “The team has been ready ever since they qualified. We have watched a lot of videos and have studied all the teams. We have different strategies for each team,” added the veteran.

Read: Not just football on North Koreans' minds

The Korean side, however, seems relatively inexperienced and hasn’t had as much exposure ahead of its World Cup campaign as the Niger side. “We played seven matches against local clubs from a higher division,” said the team's coach, Yong Su Kim, when asked about his side's preparations.

Kim has previously proved to be a fine coach, having led the Korean senior team to the qualification stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. He will look to bring in all his experience to the fore to help Korea get past the group stages from what is said to be the toughest group of the tournament.

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