2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup: Profiles of Africa's 4 teams in India

New Delhi, India (PANA) - With the qualification of Niger, Ghana, Guinea and Mali to represent Africa at the 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in India, running from 6 to 28 October, 2017, FIFA.com has compiled the following country profiles of the four teams.

Niger profile
The FIFA Under-17 World Cup, India 2017, will see Niger make their debut on the world stage, having never previously appeared at a FIFA competition in any age group.

Their road to India:
Following their 1-0 defeat of Niger in the first-leg of their second-round qualifier for the 2017 African Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations, two-time reigning world champions Nigeria would have been confident that their experience would take them through to the next round. However, Abdoul Karim Tinni Sanda’s 90th-minute strike in the return leg gave Niger a shock aggregate win.

The Junior Menas backed up that performance by going on to reach the last four of the continental finals, a surprise run that secured them a place at India 2017.

The Nigeriens did not have it easy against Africa’s finest, drawing 2-2 with Angola in their opening group match in Gabon before losing 1-0 to Mali. That left them needing to beat Tanzania to advance to the semis, a task they achieved thanks to Ibrahim Boubacar Marou’s solitary goal.

Beaten 6-5 on penalties by Ghana after a goalless semi-final, Niger then went down 3-1 to Guinea in the match for third place, though they had already achieved their lofty objective by then.

The coach - Tiemogo Soumaila - had already become a hero of Nigerien football even before leading the Junior Menas to India 2017. A former captain of the senior national team, Soumaila was a defender noted for his solidity on the ground and his prowess in the air, qualities that earned him the nickname 'The Emperor'.

A physical education and sports teacher, on account of football being an amateur sport in Niger at the time, he took up coaching after retiring from the game, taking courses in Europe and Brazil before being appointed Niger’s national director of football in 1995.

The 1990s also saw him occupy the role of head coach. Now 54, he combines his duties as Niger’s Under-17 coach with his post as the head of the Atcha Academie training centre.


Ghana profile
The 1990s were a truly remarkable era for the Black Starlets, winning the FIFA Under-17 World Cup twice – in 1991 and 1995 – reaching four out of five finals and finishing third in the 1999 edition. Some of the starlets from the 1990s, including Samuel Kuffour, Stephen Appiah and Michael Essien, went on to represent the senior side at the FIFA World Cup in the 2000s. Since those heady days though, except for a semi-final berth in 2007, the Ghanaians have had something of a barren run, reaching the global showpiece just twice in the last seven attempts.

Their road to India:
The two-time champions reached their first Under-17 World Cup for a decade in, at times, stop-start circumstances.

After edging Burkina Faso 6-5 over two legs in the second round of qualification, they saw off Côte d’Ivoire to progress to the CAF Africa Under-17 Cup of Nations in Gabon. Once there, they hit their stride, defeating Cameroon 4-0 and the hosts 5-0, the latter result securing their spot as the first African side on the plane to India 2017.

After that, the Ghanaians did not score again in regulation time, drawing 0-0 with Guinea in their final group game and with Niger in the semi-finals, winning on penalties to reach the final, where they lost 1-0 to Mali.    

The coach - Former Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak coach, Paa Kwesi Fabin, took charge of the Black Starlets in October 2011, meaning he has reached the Under-17 World Cup thrice. Despite a strong showing in Gabon, he has hinted at alterations for India 2017.

“We will surely make some additions to the squad before the World Cup,” he said. “We had some of the guys who got injured, which prevented them from joining the team in Gabon. We hope to get these boys and we will also do more scouting to try and get a few others as well.”


Guinea profile
Guinea are making their fifth FIFA Under-17 World Cup appearance at India 2017. Along with Nigeria and Congo, Le Syli Cadet (Junior National Elephants) were one of the first three African sides to take part in the competition, recording two wins, two draws and two defeats en route to finishing fourth at China 1985.

Four years later in Scotland, they missed out on a place in the second round, despite finishing the group phase unbeaten with three draws. The Guineans fell at the first hurdle again in their third tournament appearance at Ecuador 1995, beating Portugal but losing to Argentina and Costa Rica.

The Junior National Elephants suffered another first-round exit two years ago in Chile, where they drew 1-1 with England and lost 3-1 and 1-0 to Brazil and Korea Republic, respectively.

Their road to India:
Guinea showed mental strength in reaching India 2017. Drawn against Morocco in the second round of qualifying for the 2017 CAF U-17 Africa Cup of Nations, the Guineans came from 1-0 down in both legs before advancing on penalties on Moroccan soil.

After negotiating the third round, they kicked off the continental finals in Gabon with a 5-1 victory over the host nation. A 1-1 draw with Cameroon and a goalless stalemate with Ghana secured them a place in the last four, and with it, a trip to the world finals. Beaten 2-0 on penalties by Mali after another goalless draw in the semis, Guinea then secured third place with a 3-1 win over Niger.

The coach - Souleymane Camara - owes his nickname 'Abedi' to his admiration for Ghana legend Abedi Pele. A former playmaker himself, Camara boasts an excellent reputation in Guinea, having enjoyed a long and successful career as a player-coach, during which he won two national cups with FC Sequence.

The coach of Guinean first division side Satellite FC since December 2016, he has put together a fine Under-17 national team at the same time, one that is now hoping to make its mark on the global scene following its exploits in the continental finals.


Mali profile
Mali qualified for three successive FIFA Under-17 World Cups between 1997 and 2001, but then experienced something of a downturn, missing out on the tournament for the ten years that followed.

In 1997, the Malians were knocked out on penalties by Germany at the quarter-final stage – the decisive spot-kick was missed by Seydou Keita, who would go on to shine for a number of major European clubs, such as Sevilla, Barcelona and Roma.

Two years later, in New Zealand, Les Aiglonnets failed to advance from the group stage, while in 2001, the Africans came close to breaking into the last four, but lost out to Argentina 2-1 in extra time. It was not until Chile 2015, where they made it all the way to the final – which resulted in a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Nigeria – that they overcame the quarter-final hurdle.

Their road to India
For the first time in the history of the CAF Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations, the holders of the continental title succeeded in retaining their crown.

Champions in 2015, Mali once again emerged victorious in Gabon this year. Having breezed through the qualifying rounds, which featured a 9-0 victory over Chad in N'Djamena, the Malians negotiated the group stage without great fanfare until their third match, when they disposed of Angola 6-1 (they had initially drawn 0-0 with Tanzania and beaten Niger 2-1).

In the semi-finals, following a scoreless stalemate, they got the better of Guinea via a penalty shoot-out, and in the final, a Mamadou Samake goal was enough to secure a win over Ghana and a second continental title.

The coach - Having formerly taken charge of Djoliba, one of Mali’s major clubs, and Emirati side Bani Yas, Togolese tactician Jonas Komla took the reins of Les Aiglonnets after the departure of Baye Bah, who had led them to the final of Chile 2015.

Like his predecessor, Komla guided his charges to continental glory, and he hopes to also emulate Bah on the global stage by reaching the final in India.

“We want to honour Mali and all of Africa during the Under-17 World Cup,” he said. “But it’s a completely different level. It’s another challenge, and we’ll have to prepare for it in a serious manner.”
-0- PANA VAO/MA 2Oct2017

02 october 2017 11:53:30

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