When the 2017 U-17 World Cup tournament director, Javier Ceppi, expressed satisfaction at the speed with which renovations were being done at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi, fans in the football-crazy state of Kerala must have let out a huge sigh of relief.
Kochi fans had more reasons to celebrate after the U-17 World Cup draw on 7 July, as football powerhouses like Spain and Brazil were placed in Group D, matches of which will be hosted by Kochi. The due will be joined in the group by Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and tournament debutants Niger.
Apart from hosting the Group D fixtures, the Kaloor Stadium will also host one Group C fixture. As luck would have it, Kochiites will get to witness European giants Germany take on Guinea.
The Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium, which houses the Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters FC, will also host a Round of 16 match and a quarter-final.
Spain and Brazil qualified as European under-17 champions and South American under-17 champions respectively. North Korea qualified after a run to the semi-final of the AFC U-16 Championship in 2016 whereas Niger made it through to India after finishing fourth at the 2017 CAF U-17 Africa Cup of Nations.
Making an appearance at the U-17 World Cup after a gap of eight years, Spain will be aiming to win the only trophy missing from their trophy cabinet when they come to India. La Furia Roja will look to continue from where they left off at the 2017 U-17 European Championship where they scored a last-gasp equaliser in the final against England before winning 4-1 on penalties.
To simply say that Brazil won the South American Under-17 Championships will be an understatement. The team more or less rampaged their way to the title. They scored an astonishing 24 goals in nine matches while only conceding thrice in the tournament which was held in Chile.
Just like hosts India, this edition of the U-17 World Cup will be Niger’s first ever FIFA finals appearance at any age group. They established their credentials by dispatching five-time U-17 World Cup winners Nigeria in the second round qualifier of the 2017 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations.
Making their fifth appearance at the U-17 World Cup will be the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. At last year's AFC U-16 Championship, North Korea were not the most exciting team to watch on the football pitch but they were clinical and knew how to get the job done. A penalty shootout win over Oman sealed their World Cup spot.
The Koreans have previously made it through to the knockout-stages and will be hoping to put together a decent run to progress beyond the Round of 16.
Kochi is one of the six host cities apart from New Delhi, Margao, Mumbai, Guwahati and Kolkata for the 17th edition of the football tournament.
The opening game in Kochi on 7 October promises to be a mouth-watering clash between Brazil and Spain which kicks-off at 5 pm while North Korea take on African newcomers Niger at 8 pm.
Three days later on 10 October, Spain face Niger in the day's first Group D fixture while North Korea face Brazil in the second.
On 13 October, Spain meet North Korea in the 5 pm fixture. At 8 pm, Germany and Guinea from Group C face each other in their final group stage game.
The team which top Group D take on the team which finish third in Groups B, E or F at 5 pm on 18 October for a place in the quarter-finals.
Kochi will also be the venue for the quarter-final which will take place at 5 pm on 22 October.
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Updated Date: Sep 28, 2017 16:08:02 IST