In three months time, the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup will be hosted for the very first time by India. On Friday, the official draw of the prestigious tournament which took place in Mumbai stole the limelight, with former U-17 World Cup winner Nwankwo Kanu, U-20 World Cup winner Esteban Cambiasso, Indian national team captain Sunil Chhetri and Olympic silver medalist PV Sindhu pulling out the 24 teams.
After the draw concluded, some of the coaches and team officials spoke to the media to provide immediate reaction and here's what they had to say about the draw.
Having previously made it to the U-17 event on five occasions, Colombia's best finish came in the 2003 and 2009 World Cup, when they finished third.
"Well, it certainly is a big responsibility for us that we are going to face the host nation in the group stages. There will be a lot of pressure on us, however, we are preparing well and we will face it regardless of anything. We are also looking to play matches with some of the countries in similar conditions," said coach Orlando Restrepo when asked how he assesses the draw.
Colombia are drawn with hosts India, USA and Ghana, in what looks like a very competitive group. The Group A matches will take place at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi.
"All the teams in the group are very good, and we are happy to be facing them. It (tournament) is something that's unforgettable for the players and I’m very positive about the venues we'll play in too. I’m looking at it match by match. The first objective is to get out of the group, and after that, we will see how we progress," said Mali coach Jonas Komla after the draws.
Finalists in 2015, Mali competed in three successive World Cups between 1997 and 2001 but never tasted title success. However, at the 2017 World Cup, they will be eager to bounce back after an emphatic show at the African Cup of Nations earlier this year. Their successful U-17 AFCON campaign included a 9-0 thumping of Chad in the qualifying rounds and a 6-1 thrashing of Angola in the group stages.
The high-flying Mali will lock horns with Paraguay, New Zealand and Turkey in Group B, with their matches to be played at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai.
Germany will feature for the 11th time at the U-17 tournament scheduled to take place in India in October. It comes as a surprise that Germany have never won the U-17 World Cup after coming close to clinching the inaugural event in 1985.
"It’s an interesting group. They are new teams that we don’t know much about, but from now, we will analyse their past games. I think it will be a great tournament for the players and the staff, so we are very lucky to be in India," said Germany coach Christian Wuck, whose side will cross swords with Iran, Guinea and Costa Rica in Group C.
Earlier at the U-17 European Championship, Die Mannschaft seemed to be scoring goals at will, registering 36 goals in seven matches. So, they are the ones to watch out for.
The Brazilian team are a force to reckon with, having won the U-17 title thrice – 1997, 1999 and 2005 – and finished as runners-up in 1995 and 2005. Interestingly, they were the dominant side in the South American U-17 tournament, going the entire tournament unbeaten.
When asked about the draw, Brazil coach Carlos Amadeu said: "It is a tricky one but not unbeatable. We are lined up to face the U-17 champion of Europe in Spain, Asian giants Korea and also African Cup of Nations semi-finalists Niger. We will be well prepared, maybe better prepared barring the conditions in India."
They are paired with 2017 European champions Spain, Niger and Korea in Group D. All the matches will be played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.
France have contested at the U-17 level on five occasions, winning once in 2001. In fact, the title came after a prolonged absence of 14 years from the tournament for the Les Blues. France belong to Group E, where they are slated to face debutants New Caledonia, Honduras and Asian giants Japan at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati.
"We have got a Japanese team. I think Japan will be a tough competitor in the group. We have played a U-16 tournament with them. We will face New Caledonia, who also speak French, and we are looking forward to playing a great game with them and hope for the best," said coach Lionel Rouxel on the sidelines of the draw.
Honduras have been regulars at the U-17 event ever since their debut in 2007, featuring in three out of the four editions. The Los Catrachos' best performance came in 2013, where they made it to the quarter-finals of the event.
"We understand that every event is a difficult one. The rivals, two of them are very strong such as Japan and France. It is the first time for New Caledonia, so we have to be prepared," reasons coach Jose Valladares.
Honduras registered wins over Curacao, Haiti and later racked up a 7-1 win over Cuba in the CONCACAF U-17 to seal qualification to the World Cup in India. They are grouped with heavyweights France, New Caledonia and Japan in Group E.
The La Roja sealed qualification after finishing second in the U-17 South American Championship. This will be the fourth time Chile will compete at the U-17 level, having finished third in their debut event in 1993.
"We are grouped with a very tough team like Mexico and other countries like Iraq and England who are equally strong. We know we have the potential but we need to speed up a little. Our team is going to prepare well for the tournament. Also, before coming to India, we might play friendly matches against England and Iraq in Europe to get used to the conditions," explained coach Hernan Caputto.
Chile are a part of the potential 'Group of Death' alongside two-time champions Mexico, U-20 winners England and Asian champions Iraq in Group F. The Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium (Salt Lake Stadium) in Kolkata will host all the Group F games.
Costa Rica may have featured at the main FIFA World Cup for just four times but the U-17 team is a regular at the youth events. The tiny country will be participating in their 10th U-17 World Cup in India. The Los Ticos were almost unbeaten at the Central American qualifying zone en route the 2017 CONCACAF tournament earlier this year, however, they lost 1-6 to Mexico but managed to seal qualification.
"All the teams in our group are very competitive. We are comfortable with the group and not to forget we are facing some historic teams like Germany, so that is very important for us. Our first objective will be to get best results," said coach Marcelo Herrera after the results were out.
Costa Rica will play at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa alongside Germany, Guinea and Iran in Group C.
Updated Date: Sep 28, 2017 15:24 PM