x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Five contenders for the Fifa Under 17 World Cup crown

Mexico and Argentina are two Western Hemisphere powers that could take home the trophy, writes John McAuley.

The draw for the 2013 Fifa Under 17 World Cup, which begins Thursday in Abu Dhabi. Lee Hoagland / The National
The draw for the 2013 Fifa Under 17 World Cup, which begins Thursday in Abu Dhabi. Lee Hoagland / The National

Mexico

Although drawn in a tough group featuring Nigeria, Sweden and Iraq, much is expected of the defending champions. Led by Raul Gutierrez, the coach who guided his country to success on home soil two years ago, Mexico comfortably won the 2013 Concacaf U17 Championship in April.

Argentina

Venerable participants of this tournament, the South Americans will hope their 13th attempt to seal the title is a lucky one. They have never progressed past the semi-finals, but the class of 2013 comes into the competition as Conmebol champions, having finished top of the final group stage at this year’s South American Under 17 Football Championship.

Russia

As debutants in 1987, Russia defeated Nigeria on penalties to lift the trophy, then failed to qualify for the following 12 tournaments. A supreme display at the European U17 Championship in April saw them win the title to finally book their spot here.

Ivory Coast

While Nigeria are typically Africa’s most successful representative at the U17 level, the Ivorians are the continent’s current champions after they defeated the Golden Eaglets in the African U17 Championship in Morocco earlier this year. The draw was not kind, though, with Italy, Uruguay and New Zealand blocking their path.

Uzbekistan

A year older and wiser from last October’s Asian U16 Championships, the Uzbeks could surprise in the UAE. To land the Asian crown, they excelled against more established sides in South Korea and Iran, before vanquishing Japan in the final. They will expect to advance to the last 16.