After a pulsating 22 days of action culminated in England clinching the coveted FIFA U-17 World Cup title, Firstpost asked its football correspondents and freelancers to weigh in on what they thought were the best moments of the edition, the standout player of the tournament and the biggest disappointment of the World Cup. Here's who they picked as the biggest disappointment of the showpiece event.
Shivam Damohe, Firstpost staff writer
When Turkey reached the semi-finals of the UEFA European U-17 Championships a few months ago, the team had sent out a strong message. The focus on the team's technical style of play enabled them to play freely and the results showed how Mehmet Hacioglu's young guns adhered to his philosophy – something the Turkish team often boasts about. However, at the U-17 World Cup, where they were clubbed with New Zealand, Mali and Paraguay in Group B, Turkey struggled. They were outplayed not once but thrice. Despite scoring the first goal of the tournament, the young Turks failed to impress thereafter, losing 0-3 and 1-3 to Mali and Paraguay respectively. Hacioglu spoke highly of his side's technical prowess but there was no evidence of it on the field. The midfield was in tatters and the defence disorganised. All opponents had to do was crowd five players at the back and look to counter-attack and exploit the Turkish defence. With so much promise upfront, Turkey were sent packing with a single point.
It was a shame to see a team with so much talent crash out rather embarrassingly from the competition.
Amit Kamath, Firstpost staff writer
The euphoria of having an Indian score the country's first-ever goal at a World Cup will linger for some time. But it could have been a lot more. India's 1-2 loss against Colombia could have been — nay, should have been — a draw at the very least. In the first half itself, India had two incredible chances. Abhijit Sarkar hit his shot straight at the 'keeper, while Rahul KP hit the woodwork later. If either had gone in, India would have taken the lead. We still have Jeakson Singh Thounaojam's goal to cherish. But it seemed the delirium caused by that goal caused India to switch off mentally, culminating into Colombia scoring their second goal which snatched away the match from India's hand. A draw would have been an apt result for the heart and vim the Indian team showed that evening against Colombia.
Manas Mitul, Freelance journalist
It would be harsh to label a team as a disappointment. Youth tournaments are a valuable learning experience for all teams and players involved. It is like a coming of age for the stars of tomorrow. They get to know what it is like to represent your country on the world stage. If they win, they learn what it takes to become champions; if they lose, they learn way more. So, my disappointment of the U-17 World Cup was the relentless rain in Guwahati which rendered the pitch unplayable for the semi-final. So many fans missed out on a chance to see England and Brazil, two football giants, take on each other in a knockout game.
Priyansh, Freelance journalist
The All India Football Federation (AIFF). Although nobody expected India to pick up a point in the group stage, the national side’s last-place finish in a tournament of 24 nations was hardly worth celebrating. Yet, the administrators involved with Indian football were of the opinion that India should be proud. Three defeats and a negative goal difference of eight, according to the AIFF President Praful Patel, was an impressive return for a side that performed “exceedingly well.”
Unfortunately, the insularity of Indian football continues to thrive. Niger and New Caledonia – without any comparable resources to India – outperformed the hosts on their debut appearances in the under-17 World Cup. The Nigeriens, in fact, made it to the knockout stages. Not to forget, Ghana coach Paa Kwesi Fabin was of the opinion that India has far better infrastructure than the African heavyweight.
Yet, lessons are unlikely to be learnt. The absence of an adequate grassroots programme will mean that the AIFF will continue to spend an inordinate amount of money on a bunch of players instead of investing in the system. But well, the ‘redoubtable’ FIFA has given its stamp of approval to Indian football. Delusion will be sold again.
Sreya Mazumder, Freelance journalist
Brazil, in spite of their third-place finish, was the biggest disappointment, especially during the knock-out stages. Although scorelines might suggest otherwise, Brazil were playing unlike their natural self in their final three matches against Germany, England and Mali. The ‘Samba flair’ was absent, to the disappointment of the huge contingent of Brazil supporters in the packed stands at Yuva Bharati Krirangan and their coach Carlos Amadeu who dubbed their win over Mali as “our worst match in two and half years of preparation”.
Wins and losses are a part and parcel of the sport – but it was Brazil’s lacklustre performance against Mali, the lack of a sense of urgency while chasing the game against England and the casualness in their body language during their first-half against Germany, which disappointed fans. The deficits were as much temperamental as they were technical – the reigning U-17 CONMEBOL champions simply could not match up to the pace, directness and ingenuity of their opponents – their craft falling way shorter of the optimal standards necessary at this level.
Kaushal Shukla, Firstpost staff writer
Mexico came into the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup as champions of the CONCACAF U-17 Championship, and with an envious track record at the global event. Having reached at least the semi-finals in each of their previous three campaigns, Mexico were expected to be there come the business end of the tournament. However, the North Americans never got into the groove in India and scraped through to the Round of 16 as the fourth-best third-placed team. Placed in the Group of Death with eventual champions England, Iraq and Chile, Mexico failed to live up to the billing. They managed just two points from the group stage before crashing out at the hands of Iran in the pre-quarters.
Mexico weren't the favourites to win the competition at the start, but they were expected to at least ruffle some feathers. Thanks to their failure to produce the kind of football that was expected of them, the Group of Death turned out to be a rather meek battle with England dominating throughout.
Swapnaneel Paraskar, Freelance journalist
Being in Guwahati, it had to be the semifinal between Brazil and England which never happened in the rain-struck northeastern city, later shifted to Kolkata. Plus, a lot of hopes were pinned on Mexico who were the top-seeded team but crashed out in the second round itself.
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Updated Date: Oct 31, 2017 20:57:00 IST