Kochi: Debutants Niger would look to continue their giant-killing run from the continental qualifying event when they take on a defensive North Korea in their opening Group D match of the FIFA U-17 World Cup on Saturday.
Niger have never previously appeared at a FIFA competition at any level. When they walk out in Kochi on Saturday, they will join India and New Caledonia as the three debutants of the FIFA U- 17 World Cup.
The first-timers from Africa are no pushovers and they would be looking to cause a few upsets as former champions Nigeria have found out in the continental qualifiers.
The shock 1-0 win by Niger in a group match in Gabon in the African qualifiers sent the five-time FIFA U-17 World Cup champions Nigeria crashing out of the India event.
They went onto reach the semifinals to book a berth in this FIFA U-17 World Cup edition. Niger were beaten 5-6 on penalties by Ghana after a goalless semi-final and then went down 1-3 to Guinea in the match for third place, though they had already achieved their lofty objective by then.
Niger coach Soumaila Tiemogo is hoping that his side makes the same kind of impact and the match could be the ideal start in a group which has title contenders Brazil and Spain.
"I can't guarantee that we'll go on and win the competition but I can guarantee that we'll make people talk about us, just like we did in Africa. Maybe we can't work miracles, but we can do our best," Tiemogo said before the tournament.
North Korea, on the other hand, are not one of the most attractive sides in world football. They believe more in having a strong and compact defense and do not normally play attacking football.
Of the four Asian qualifiers for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, North Korea were arguably the least impressive. They won just two of their five matches in the Asian qualifying tournament.
Aside from a 4-1 win over Thailand, North Korea displayed trademark pragmatism with goal-scoring at a premium. They defeated Yemen 2-0 but rounded out the group campaign with a 1-3 defeat at the hands of Uzbekistan.
Qualification for India 2017 came via a penalty shoot-out win over Oman, before a defeat on penalties against Iran in the semi-final.
For both the opponents, a win will be crucial. Whoever loses the match, it will be difficult for them to proceed the knock-out stage as formidable Brazil and Spain are the clear favourites to finish in top two from this group.
North Korea: Sin Tae Song, Ri Hyok Sin, Kim Kyong Sok, Kye Tam, Sin Kwang Sok, Han Kyong Hun, Kim Hwi Hwang, Kim Ju Song, Kim Chung Jin, Kim Pom Hyok, Kung Jin Song, Ri Kang Guk, Ri Hyon Il, Han Jin Bom, Cha Kwang, Ri Il Ju, Yun Min, Jong Ryong Hun, Kwon Nam Hyok, Paek Kwang Min, Kim Chol Jin.
Niger: Moussa Laouali, Yacine Wa Massamba, Mahamadou Mahamane, Nasser Mahaman, Farouk Idrissa, Ismael Issaka, Habibou Sofiane, Kairou Amoustapha, Rachid Alfari, Karim Tinni, Djibrilla Ibrahim, Yacouba Aboubacar, Kader Aboubacar, Rachid Soumana, Abdoulaye Boubacar, Ibrahim Boubacar, Ibrahim Namata, Salim Abdourahmane, Hamid Galissoune, Khaled Lawali.
Match starts 8pm IST.
Published Date: Oct 07, 2017 10:59 am | Updated Date: Oct 07, 2017 10:59 am