Under-17 World Cup: 10 Foreign Prodigies to Look Out For
Here’s a list of 10 highly-rated players that you can’t miss during the U-17 FIFA World Cup in India.
It is never easy for a promising youngster to break into the first team of any club due to the presence of seasoned professionals already in the side. Even if they do manage to break into the first team, there’s immense pressure to perform because every action of theirs will be under the scanner by sports enthusiasts.
This is why there are several international and club competitions for players of a particular age category. The Premier League 2, the UEFA Youth League, and the FIFA U-20 World Cup are all examples of important tournaments at the youth level.
One such tournament is the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, which India will host in October. This is the youngest category for a FIFA World Cup and it has acted as a launching platform to many modern-day superstars.
World class players like Neymar, Toni Kroos, James Rodriguez, Ronaldinho, and Cesc Fabregas, among many others, used the FIFA U-17 World Cup to showcase their talent. The latest edition of the tournament features some highly-rated players from around the globe, and here are the top 10 visiting players to watch out for.
1. Jadon Sancho (England)
Don’t be surprised if you see Jadon Sancho play for England in India during the FIFA U-17 World Cup and also play for the senior team in Russia during the FIFA World Cup.
Although Sancho is yet to make his professional debut, there is a lot of expectation and excitement about this particular youngster.
Sancho started his youth career with Watford before joining Manchester City’s Elite Development Squad in 2015. He scored five goals during the 2017 U-17 European Championship, which England lost to Spain on penalties, and was also named the best player of the tournament.
He was left out of Manchester City’s pre-season squad this summer due to a contract dispute over his playing time, which forced him to seek a move away. He joined Borussia Dortmund for a fee of £8 million and took the #7 kit vacated by Ousmane Dembele.
Make sure you take a look at Sancho during the U-17 World Cup. Chances are that you are looking at the future of the England football team.
However, the Borussia Dortmund club has released Sancho only for the group stages of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
2. Abel Ruiz (Spain)
Joining this list is a prodigy from the famed La Masia of Barcelona. Ruiz is often described as the best forward to come from Spain since David Villa, and the hype is understandable.
The 17-year-old forward has already scored a record 19 goals in 29 games at the U-17 level for Spain, including four at the U-17 European Championship. He was the captain of the Spanish side that went on to beat an equally strong English in the final on penalties.
Ruiz was given the silver boot for the competition's second best player and included in the best XI of the tournament.
The Spaniard is a skillful player who has honed his skills at La Masia. He made his professional debut for Barcelona B on 28 August and three days later, he scored his first goal against Granada.
3. Josh Sargent (United States)
Josh Sargent helped United States reach the final of the 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship by scoring five goals, but his side lost to Mexico on penalties.
Surprisingly, two days later, he was called up to the U-20 side to play in the FIFA U-20 World Cup, making him the second player to represent US at the U-17 and U-20 World Cup in the same year after Freddy Adu,
He made his debut during the tournament against Ecuador as a starter, scored two goals to help tie the match, and also became the youngest goalscorer for the US U-20 team. Sargent went on to score two more goals in the tournament, taking his tally to four goals in as many games.
The U-17 level might be a step down for Sargent at the moment, as he has already netted 18 times in just 30 games at this level.
Once he turns 18, he has an agreement to join Bundesliga club Werder Bremen.
4. Jann-Fiete Arp (Germany)
Joining the likes of Timo Werner, Leon Goretzka, and Mario Gotze, Jann-Fiete Arp was awarded Germany’s U-17 Gold Fritz Walter Medal, a series of annual awards given to talented young players in Germany.
Rumoured that he turned down a move to Chelsea in order to stay with Hamburg and become a professional, there’s a lot of excitement surrounding the 17-year-old. Although a German, Arp’s role model is England and Tottenham striker Harry Kane, and the German Youth International wants to play the way Kane does. This is understandable as Arp is also a tall and athletic striker like Kane.
Arp scored 7 goals during the 2017 U-17 Euro in which Germany lost on penalties in the semi-final to eventual winners Spain. He scored two hat-tricks in the group stage and scored the winner against Netherlands in the quarter-final to finish as the second-highest scorer.
5. Amine Gouiri (France)
Joining a long list of young and talented Frenchmen (including Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele) is Amine Gouiri of Olympique Lyon. Gouiri earned the limelight during the 2017 U-17 Euro when he ran riot by scoring a record-equaling 8 goals in just four games. He also scored a goal in the play-off match against Hungary to determine which losing quarter-finalist qualifies for the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
You can watch all eight of his goals at the tournament here.
6. Djibril Toure (Guinea)
Guinea will be pinning their hopes at the U-17 event on the shoulders of young Djibril Toure, who finished as top scorer of the 2017 Africa U-17 tournament with 6 goals in five games.
Toure scored a hat-trick against hosts Gabon in the opening game of the tournament, and ended with a brace against Niger in the third-place match. The two games in which Toure failed to score, Guinea also failed to score, highlighting his importance in the squad.
Toure is used as a wide player but his goal-scoring instincts and his team’s tendency to switch tactics mid game often leads to him playing as a striker.
7. Rhian Brewster (England)
Rhian Brewster is one of the most promising youngsters currently with the Liverpool academy. The 17-year-old started his youth career with Chelsea before Liverpool snapped him up.
Despite his age, the young striker is already playing for Liverpool’s U-23 squad and scoring plenty of goals. That speaks volumes about the immense talent he possesses.
Likely to lead England’s attacking lineup during the FIFA U-17 World Cup, Brewster impressed Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp so much that he was invited to train with the first team. He was eventually named on the bench for a Premier League game towards the tail end of the 2016-2017 season.
8. Mohammed Dawood (Iraq)
Iraq’s only previous appearance in the FIFA U-17 World Cup was in 2013, and they finished bottom of their group. However, they have come a long way since.
Champions of the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship held in India, Iraq beat strong teams like South Korea, Japan, and Iran to win the title. The hero for Iraq was their striker Mohammed Dawood.
Dawood scored six goals during the tournament, including a hat-trick against Japan in the semi-final. This earned him the tournament’s top scorer award and the best player award.
He draws inspiration from Iraq’s legendary player Younis Mahmoud, who helped the country win the AFC Asian Cup in 2007 by becoming the tournament’s top scorer and best player. The similarity is uncanny, isn’t it?
9. Youssouf Koita (Mali)
Goalkeeper Koita was the hero of this year’s Africa U-17 Cup of Nations which Mali won, and thus secured qualification for the 2017 U-17 World Cup. He kept three clean sheets in five games during the tournament, while conceding just two goals and thus helped build a solid defense necessary for any team aspiring to win a title.
Aside from keeping three clean sheets, it was his heroics in the semi-final against a high flying Guinea team that caught the eye. After the game ended 0-0, penalties were necessary to determine a winner, and Koita saved all four penalties he faced, including one from the tournament’s top scorer Djibril Toure.
The African side may not be favourites but any team wanting to beat them will have to find a way past Koita first.
10. Vinicius Junior (Brazil)
The one big player this tournament will miss is Vinicius Junior. Unfortunately, the Flamengo football club has not allowed the Brazilian to participate in the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Vinicius Junior is already a big prospect in senior football. Real Madrid has spent nearly €45 million to sign Vinicius when he turns 18 next year. The deal is done and the player will spend the 2018-2019 season on loan with his current club, Flamengo.
What is remarkable about the fee Real Madrid spent on the player is the fact that this is just €1 million less than what Real Madrid spent on 2002 FIFA World Cup’s Golden Boot winner Ronaldo Nazario.
Vinicius has played 22 games at the U-17 level for Brazil, scoring 19 times. Seven of those goals came during the U-17 South American Championship which Brazil won, and he was named the tournament’s best player.
(Naveen Joseph is a passionate, avid and cognizant sports fan who believes that sports make the world a better place. Although content writing is his forte, he has significant experience in video production and copywriting. All of this after graduating from IIT Kharagpur. In the long run, he hopes to infect the rest of the world with his love for sports.)
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