FIFA U-17 World Cup: Mali to begin with high-voltage clash vs Paraguay
Mali arrived for the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 after winning the African championship while Paraguay are the only team to have held Brazil in the South American U-17 championship. Besides the two favourites, New Zealand and Turkey comprise Group B, and all the Group B matches at DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai.fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 06, 2017 10:56 IST
Mali, the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup runners-up, will face dark horses Paraguay in the headline game in Group B at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Friday in the tournament held in India for the first time. (Tournament schedule)
New Zealand will take on European heavyweights Turkey in the opening game of Group B three hours earlier, with the kickoff scheduled at 5 pm.
Mali arrive after winning the continental championship while Paraguay are the only team to have held Brazil in the South American U-17 championship and the two are favoured to progress from the group.
Mali could even lift the title, according to Paraguay U-17 coach Gustavo Morinigo, but he says his team is adequately prepared to challenge the African nation, having adjusted to the time difference.
“We know Mali is a strong team. They are one of the favorites to win the tournament. We respect that, but we are also well prepared,” said Morinigo.
The climate will not worry Paraguay, according to centre back Alexix Duarte.
“In Paraguay too, it is like this. We have amazing heat there. And we are accustomed to what the climate is here. So, we’re going to do our best tomorrow.”
Turkey’s preparation was below par, after they lost all three games in the St George’s Park Tournament in England. They will still hold an edge over the Kiwis, said Turkey U-17 team coach Mehmet Hacioglu.
“All our rivals are possibly stronger than us physically, and much bigger. But our advantage against New Zealand is we have a much more skilled and technical team,” said Hacioglu.
New Zealand coach Danny Hay though says their tough warm-up matches against Brazil and England last week – they lost both games -- will help combat Turkey.
“We are just going to be organised, understand the quality of the opposition. We are not going out there with any fear and are confident the players are going to do the job. For us, it was really important we played against good technical players and we did that against Brazil and England,” said Hay.
New Zealand conceded five goals in the defeats to Brazil and England, highlighting their defensive problems.
“Conceding five goals was a concern, but the players have taken ownership. I think we have got a little more about us going forward. While we conceded five, but managed to score three,” said Danny Hay.
Both coaches feel the heat could be a challenge and the team adapting to the conditions faster will have an advantage.