On Friday, the 17th edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup will kick off, with hosts India making their historic debut in a FIFA competition when they take on the USA in New Delhi.
The highly anticipated contest will follow the Group A opener between Colombia and two-time champions Ghana. The opening day also sees action from Group B, as New Zealand take on Turkey, while Chile 2015 runners-up Mali meet Paraguay in Navi Mumbai.
India has been drawn in Group A alongside USA, Ghana, and Colombia. The hosts would have been the weakest team in any group and Indian U-17 head coach Luis Norton de Matos knows that. Even though India qualify automatically as hosts, the All India Football Federation has invested more than Rs 15 crores on the team, sending them to four continents, 18 countries to play more than 100 matches in the last three years.
Most of the American players ply their trade in Major League Soccer youth teams and a couple of them are set to play in top European clubs as well. The USA on paper have a better squad of players compared to India and will be the favourites to triumph in what will only be one of the four matches on the opening day of the tournament.
De Matos has prepared his side for a strong defence and not to concede goals against the USA, who finished second in 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship in April. His strategy would be to rely on smooth and swift transitions from defence to offence and hit on the counter-attacks.
Ahead of the match, Indian coach Luis Norton de Matos was quoted to be saying by PTI, “They (USA) will be strong in attack and we have to prepare to counter their attack. We have to be strong in defence.”
USA coach John Hackworth, on the other hand, said, “We’ve played India once before, we were successful against them. But it wasn’t in the opening game of the World Cup, it wasn’t them hosting a World Cup. My feeling is that, and from the information I’ve heard, there’s going to be a very loud crowd.”
Even though FIFA rejected to Indian government’s proposal of an opening ceremony, the event will include a small ceremony at the Delhi stadium.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be attending the opening day of FIFA U-17 World Cup on Friday. Other than Modi, FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura and head of FIFA tournaments Jaime Yarza will also be part of the spectators on Friday.
The FIFA Under-17 World Cup will be played in six cities — New Delhi, Navi Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Kochi and Margao – from October 6 to 28.