FIFA U17 WC: Paraguay sports a balanced look

Paraguay will meet Mali in its FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 opening game.

New Zealand's U-17 football team coach Daniel Hay during a press conference in Mumbai on Thursday.   -  PTI

Paraguay, the bronze medallist at the South American U-17 Championships, behind winner Brazil and Chile, and coached by World Cup player Gustavo Morinigo sports a balanced look on and off the pitch, prior to its FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 opening game against Mali.

Paraguay travelled to Germany for the last stage of its preparations and played against development sides of the Bundesliga clubs. After returning home and before flying to India, Morinigo made the players to train at such a time so that the body clock adjusted to the change in time zone.

Morinigo explained: “There is a time difference of eight and half hours between Paraguay and India. The players now have got accustomed. The climate back home is just like this, hot and humid. Mali is the favourite to win this tournament, we respect them but also prepared.”

Paraguay managed to force two draws against Brazil at the South American qualifying event, eventually earning respect from rival coach Carlos Amadeu.

Morinigo’s stress on defence and attack makes the South Americans similar in approach to Turkey, another Group B team confident of countering physically superior New Zealand with technical ability in in Friday’s first game.

Turkey coach Mehmet Hacioglu revealed that after making the grade from the Europe U-17 Championship, he prepared for the World Cup in two phases. The team travelled to Qatar for players to get adjusted to heat in these parts and reduce the travel time into India. The second and final phase happened at the match venue.

Turkey has equipped itself to counter the taller, heavier Kiwis, clearly ahead of the rest in planning. Kiwi Danny Hay put his boys through three training sessions on Wednesday in Navi Mumbai. Two practice games against Brazil and England at the Mumbai Football Arena exposed the Kiwi defence, for whom three group games against more famous rivals should be a learning experience.

Hay explained that losses do not mean the end of the world, instead the Oceania Zone U-17 topper will use the World Cup experience to speed up development to the senior national squad. Friday’s Group B opener will be a step in that direction.

Match schedule: New Zealand vs Turkey (5 p.m.), followed by Paraguay vs Mali (8 p.m.).