FIFA Under-17 World Cup 2017: Indian football ushers in a new era

A young Indian side will take on United States in one of the four opening day matches of the 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Delhi on Friday.

This is not only the first time India is hosting a FIFA event, but also the first time featuring in it.

Here’s a quick rundown all the details you need to know as India prepares to make its football World Cup debut:

The Event

The tournament started in 1985 as the Under-16 World Championship. It was converted into the Under-17 World Championship in 1991 before being rechristened as the Under=17 World Cup in 2007. The tournament happens every two years and there have been 16 such events since its inception, with this being the 17th edition.

Defending champions Nigeria will be unable to defend their title as they failed to qualify. They are also the most successful team in the age group with five Under 17 WC titles. Brazil has won the tournament thrice.

While 23 visiting teams had to qualify via a confederation-based qualifying round, India got a direct entry by virtue of being the host nation.

Three teams will be making their Under-17 World Cup debut in this edition — India, Niger and New Caledonia.

Teams finishing in the top two slots in their respective groups get a direct entry into the Knockout Round. Four out of the six teams that finish third will also get a chance to proceed into the next round determined by goal difference. The Knockout Round includes Round of 16, Quarter-Finals, Semi Finals and the Final. There will also be a ‘Third place match’ to determine which of the teams losing the semi-final finishes third.

The Venues

The 52 matches will be played across six cities – Guwahati, Margao (Goa), Navi Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata and Kochi.

All host stadiums and training grounds have gone through intense refurbishment under FIFA’s supervision.

The Groups

The draw was held on July 7 in Mumbai.

FIFA Under 17 World Cup India 2017 - Groups

The Schedule

The tournament will start on Friday with four matches. India will be playing all its Group Stage matches at the Nehru stadium in New Delhi.

India vs United States: October 6 (20:00 IST)

India vs Colombia: October 9 (20:00 IST)

Ghana vs India: October 12 (20:00 IST)

Round of 16 will start on October 16 followed by the Quarter-Finals on October 21 and 22. The two Semi-Finals will be played on October 25. The third place match will take place on the same day as the Final on October 28, at Kolkata’s iconic Salt Lake Stadium.

Here’s the full tournament schedule.

With youngsters in India turning to football, and the rise of the Indian Super League, the country’s football is on a renaissance path.

However, India is not a favourite to win the World Cup. In fact, football pundits suggest that India would be more than happy with winning even one match.

More importantly, the infrastructure that has been created and the grassroots program that have been running in the country as part of the World Cup project, is the real legacy that the World Cup will leave behind.

Irrespective of how the hosts perform, the tournament is set to boost football in India.