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Rediff.com  » Sports » U-17 WC Previews: Star-studded England face Chile, France eye winning start

U-17 WC Previews: Star-studded England face Chile, France eye winning start

October 07, 2017 19:33 IST

England

IMAGE: England boast of a strong squad . Photograph: FIFA/Twitter

A star-studded England will take on unpredictable Chile in a Group F match of the FIFA U-17 World Cup at the refurbished Salt Lake Stadium, in Kolkata, on Sunday.

 

The gigantic Salt Lake Stadium, officially known as Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK), will host an official match after a hiatus of more than one year and eight months.

The Group F is a tough group with all the four teams, including two-time champions Mexico and Iraq, who open later in the evening, having the potential to make it to the last 16 round.

In such a scenario, the Steve Cooper-coached England, fresh from a 3-2 defeat of New Zealand in a warm-up match in Mumbai, would look for a strong start against the Latin American side, who are having a difficult time with the searing heat and humidity of Kolkata.

On paper, England boast of a strong squad in Manchester United starlet Angel Gomes and Jadon Sancho, who made an Euro 8 million move from Manchester City to Borussia Dortmund during close season.

The two along with Phil Foden are billed as the next big stars and it will be exciting to see how the Chilean defence contain the English trio.

An attacking midfielder, Gomes has already set a milestone in the Premier League, making a debut at 16.

Gomes became the first Premier League player to be born in the 2000s when he replaced Wayne Rooney with two minutes left in Manchester United's 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on the last day of the season.

Chile, who featured in 2015 by virtue of being the hosts, have qualified for the first time since 1997 after finishing runners-up to Brazil in the South American U-17 Championship.

But the Hernan Caputo-coached side is struggling with heat and humidity despite a strong preparation that included taking yoga classes and training in sauna-like conditions.

Chile boast of a strong defence and their goalkeeper Julio Borquez was adjudged best goalkeeper in the South American Championship and it remains to be seen how they hold fort against a strong England forward line-up.

Chile's best finish was third in their maiden appearance in 1993.

Two-time champions Mexico to face strong rivals in Iraq

Two-time champions Mexico may be the heavyweights in Group F but they will face a strong opponent in Asian champions Iraq in their FIFA U-17 World Cup match in Kolkata.

Since the 2005 edition in Peru, Mexico have been one of the most consistent sides of the tournament having won the title twice in a gap of six years, finishing runners-up in UAE in 2013 and being the semifinalists in Chile in the last edition.

On the other hand, Iraq are one of six sides that have lost all their matches in their maiden and only appearance at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2013.

This time their preparation was affected with a FIFA ban to play matches in the country, which was lifted only in May. But despite all odds, Iraq are here with a promise.

Iraq qualified for this prestigious tournament after emerging victorious in the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship by defeating Iran in the final.

Japan face Honduras test in Group E fixture

Asian giants Japan will eye a positive start when they lock horns with Honduras in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Guwahati.

The Japanese, who have reached the quarter-finals in 1993, when they hosted the tournament as debutants, will take it one match at a time and are not thinking beyond their tournament opener at the moment.

In the 2011 edition, they created a flutter by topping a group that included world football heavyweights Argentina, France and Jamaica on their way to the quarter-finals.

Japan entered the tournament after playing quite a few friendlies and an intense preparatory phase.

They will gain from the fact that they have a very seasoned coach in Yoshiro Moriyama, a former Japan defender who has vast experience playing and coaching in the J-League.

The Asian nation secured a ticket to India by virtue of an impressive performance in the 2016 AFC Under-16 championship.

Without an iota of doubt, the player to watch out for is striker Takefusa Kubo. Dubbed as the Japanese Messi, he is the youngest player to score in the J-League and represented Japan at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in May this year.

Contenders France eye winning start against New Caledonia

France will look to replicate their European Championships success on the global stage as they kick off their campaign in the FIFA U-17 World Cup with a game against debutants New Caledonia in Guwahati.

A formidable force in international football, France are not among the more successful teams in the U-17 tournament, but they will draw confidence from their showings in the Euro U-17, in which they reached the quarter-finals.

France and Japan are favourites to qualify for the knockouts from Group E, which also has Honduras, besides New Caledonia.

France will look to get off to an impressive start before the group's marquee match against Japan on October 11. But, at the moment, France are focussed on the game against their former colony.

And coach Dominique Wacalie is keen that the French territory is there not just to make up the numbers.

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