Preview: French teenagers have been taking the footballing world by storm over the past few years and eyeballs will be transfixed as to know if the next one is hidden amongst this current crop. A breeding ground for the likes of Karim Benzema, Samir Nasri, Anthony Martial and Kylian Mbappe, France have been pretty erratic in their U-17 World Cup track record.
It is the first time Les Bleuets have qualified for successive editions after getting knocked out in the Round of 16 in 2015, Chile.
Being the last team to qualify from Europe, head coach Lionel Rouxel has his task cut out with France being termed as one of the contenders for the title. The ideology of the team revolves around attack with the squad carrying in seven players of such repute. Experience of training in a ‘big-team’ atmosphere with the likes of Olympique Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain will serve team members well in the long run.
This is only the sixth participation for the 2001 champions. After their first appearance in 1984, France had almost gone into hiding until they came back in their title-winning edition. Apart from that, they have reached the quarter-finals twice in 2007 and 2011.
Amine Gouiri, the Lyon striker is becoming an important name in the world of football. He top scored in the U-17 Euro with eight goals to his name and has already been drafted to his club’s reserve side. With his strike partner from PSG, Yacine Adli is expected to form a lethal combo up top.
France will fight it out against first time U-17 World Cup participants New Caledonia, who also became only the sixth current member to qualify for a FIFA World Cup from their confederation, the OFC.
The Kagues have finished second in their regional tournament three times — 2003, 2013 and 2017 with the last one definitely the sweetest, which confirmed their ticket to India.
Dominique Wacalie took over the side in April 2017. A player who plied his trade for many years in the lower leagues of France, will be aiming to punch above their weight. However, the odds are stacked heavily against the Pacific nation to even win a single point given no prior experience of a global event.
One of the three teams to make their U17 World Cup bow alongside Niger and hosts India, New Caledonia have always finished top four in the qualifying process except for in 2011. Ever since an extra spot opened up for OFC members, New Caledonia now will aim to break New Zealand’s longstanding dominance.
One of the players who can make a major impact on the fortunes of New Caledonia is defender Bernard Iwa, who has an uncanny ability to enter the opposition half and rattle them.
With the absence of Paul Gope-Fenepej, Theo Bosshard will have to take up the mantle of scoring goals.
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Updated Date: Oct 08, 2017 22:13:37 IST