When the FIFA U-17 World Cup draw was made in Mumbai earlier this month, it is likely that football fans from Mumbai would have let out a little groan. The city, which is slated to host Group B matches of the prestigious age group tournament in October, missed out on the biggest names of the tournament like Spain, Germany, France, England and Brazil.
Instead, Navi Mumbai's DY Patil Stadium will play host to the U-17 teams of Paraguay, Mali, New Zealand and Turkey.
Apart from Group B fixtures, the DY Patil Stadium, which used to be the home of the Indian Super League team Mumbai City FC until a season ago, the stadium will also host a Group A fixture between USA and Colombia. A key last-16 match and the second semi-final will also be played at the venue.
While Mali are the U-17 African Cup of Nations champions, New Zealand sealed top spot in the Oceania region. Turkey were the surprise entrants from a confederation as tough as UEFA. Paraguay too caused some surprise since they qualified from the tough South American group, where teams like Argentina have missed the cut.
Mali, in fact, came agonisingly close to winning the U-17 World Cup last time around but were denied by Nigeria. The West African nation competed in three consecutive World Cups between 1997 and 2001 but have never won the title.
Turkey, who have made it to the U-17 World Cup twice before this, accounted for Italy missing out on the World Cup. With both teams in the same group along with Spain, Turkey beat the Italian outfit 2-1 to seal entry into the quarters. There, they beat Hungary to earn qualification for their third World Cup at this age group.
In the Oceania Football Confederation, a confederation filled with underdogs, New Zealand have cemented their status as the only powerhouse ever since Australia left OFC to join the more competitive Asian Football Confederation. So it came as no surprise when they won the OFC U-17 Championship to seal entry into their eighth U-17 World Cup.
Paraguay too have had the distinction of being the only team to be unbeaten in two matches against Brazil in the South American U-17 Championship — a tournament where Brazil were in rampaging form.
Having participated in the competition thrice before, Paraguay’s best showing has been a fifth-place finish at New Zealand 1999.
Mumbai is one of the six host cities apart from New Delhi, Margao, Kochi, Guwahati and Kolkata for the 17th edition of the football tournament.
The opening game in Mumbai will see New Zealand take on Turkey at 5 pm and Paraguay take on Mali at 8 pm on 6 October.
Three days later on 9 October, Turkey face Mali in the day's first Group B fixture while Paraguay face New Zealand in the second.
On 12 October, Turkey meet Paraguay in the 5 pm fixture. At 8 pm, USA and Colombia from Group A face each other in their final group stage game.
The team which top Group A, which includes hosts India, take on the team which finish third in Groups C, D or E at 5 pm on 18 October for a place in the quarter-finals.
The all-important second semi-final will be played at 8 pm on 25 October.
Updated Date: Sep 28, 2017 15:44 PM