Iraq U-17 team arrives in Kolkata
Kolkata: A 21-member Iraq national team coached by Qahtan Jathir and six support staff checked in here in the wee hours on Monday for the upcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup commencing October 6.
They landed at 2.15 am before being escorted to the team hotel by a tight security cover, a local team official said. Hours later, they had a two-hour practice session.
Making a comeback after their only appearance in the UAE-2013, the Asian champions will face Mexico in their group F World Cup opener at Saltlake Stadium on October 8.
It will be a test of character for the war-ravaged country, who are placed in a group of death featuring heavyweights Mexico, Chile and England.
They would hope to better their last place finish in 2013 when they lost all three of their matches, against Sweden, Mexico and Nigeria, the teams that eventually claimed first, second and third place in the tournament.
Iraq emerged victorious from the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship, defeating Iran in the final to become Asian champions for the first time and qualify for the tournament under the guidance of their coach Qahtan.
All eyes will be on 16-year-old Mohammed Dawood who led the turnaround for their historic feat in 2016 after they had failed to find the net in the first two matches.
He made a welcome breakthrough against Oman in Iraq's final group-stage match, and then struck a brace against Uzbekistan in the quarter-finals and a hat-trick versus Japan in the last four to emerge top goalscorer and player of the tournament in the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship.
Meanwhile, A 21-member United States football team has arrived here to play in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, beginning on October 6. The team, coached by John Hackworth, landed at the Indira Gandhi International airport at around 10pm last night and straightaway proceeded to the team hotel.
The US team came from Dubai where they had a seven-day camp, preparing for the U-17 World Cup.
The USA are in Group A along with hosts India, Colombia and Ghana. They will open their campaign against India on October 6, followed by matches against Ghana on October 9 and Colombia on October 12.
The first two matches will be played at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, while the final group game will be played at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai.
The US Soccer Federation had named 17 players who were part of the team that played in the qualifying tournament — 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship in April — in which it had finished second. Prominent players in the team include Josh Sargent and Tim Weah. Sargent will sign with Bundesliga (German League) club Werder Bremen next February when he turns 18. He also played at the U-20 World Cup in Korea earlier this year, making him the first US player since Freddy Adu in 2003 to play in the U-20 and U-17 World Cups in the same year.
Weah, son of former FIFA World Player of the Year and Liberia great George Weah, signed with Paris Saint Germain earlier this year.
In all, 12 of the 21 players on the roster come from Major League Soccer clubs.
USA have participated in 15 of the 16 editions of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, having only missed out in 2013. Their best showing came in New Zealand in 1999, when Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and Oguchi Onyewu helped the Americans to a fourth-place finish, narrowly missing out on a spot in the final after losing to Australia on penalties in the semi- finals.
The Americans reached the quarter-finals on four other occasions, most recently in Peru 2005. Last time in Chile in 2015, USA failed to emerge from the group stage for the first time since 2001.