For the first time in its history, India is hosting and playing in a football world cup event. The FIFA Under-17 World Cup 2017 is being held in India from October 6 to 28. The mascot of the tournament is clouded leopard called Kheleo. India qualified for the tournament by virtue of being the host while two other countries - Niger and New Caledonia - are also taking part in FIFA Under-17 World Cup for the first time. But reigning champions Nigeria failed to qualify for the prestigious tournament.
The tournament has 24 teams divided into six groups. The teams are Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Iraq, Iran, Japan, Korea DPR (North Korea), India, Spain, Turkey, England, Germany, France, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, USA, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Paraguay, Chile, Brazil and Colombia.
The six groups are - Group A comprising of India, USA, Ghana and Colombia. Group B has Paraguay, Mali, New Zealand and Turkey. Group C consists of Iran, Germany, Costa Rica and Guinea. The teams in Group D are Brazil, Niger, Spain and Korea DPR (North Korea). Group E will see France, Japan, Honduras and New Caledonia in action while Group F has England, Mexico, Iraq and Chile.
The African continent is represented by Ghana, Guinea, Mali and Niger. They qualified by for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup by making it to the 2017 CAF Africa U-17 Cup of Nations semi-finals in Gabon.
Apart from India as the hosts, the other teams from Asia are Iraq, Iran, Japan and Korea DPR. They too reached the semi-finals of the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship to qualify for the tournament.
The European contingent consists of Spain, Turkey, England and Germany who reached the 2017 UEFA European U-17 Championship semis to secure berths for the World Cup while France won a play-off against Hungary to book their tickets.
Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and USA secured the four available spots from CONCACAF. New Caledonia and New Zealand reached the OFC U-17 Championship final to qualify for India 2017.
Paraguay, Chile, Brazil and Colombia represent South America. They secured berths after reaching the South American U-17 Football Championship semi-finals in Chile.
The teams will play 52 games to decide the FIFA Under-17 World Cup champion. The matches are being held at six venues. They Indira Gandhi Athletic International Stadium (IGAI) in Guwahati (Assam), Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa, Kochi's Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium, Dr. DY Patil Sports Stadium in Navi Mumbai and the iconic Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in football-crazy Kolkata.
The FIFA Under-17 World Cup kicked off in New Delhi on Friday. The two semi-finals will take place on October 25 in Guwahati and Navi Mumbai. The match for the third place between the two losing semi-finalists will take place at 5 pm at Kolkata's Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan. The final is scheduled to begin at 8 pm the same day at the same venue.
While India have already created history by playing in a Football World Cup for the first time, another milestone was achieved when the hosts took on Colombia at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on October 9. Indian midfielder Jeakson Singh Thaunaojam wrote his names in history when he became the first ever Indian to score in a FIFA World Cup tournament.
The FIFA U-17 World Cup was founded in 1985 as FIFA U-16 World Championship and the last edition of this tournament was held in Chile in 2015. The past champions include Nigeria (five times - 1985, 1993, 2007, 2013, 2015), Brazil (three - 1997, 1999, 2003), Ghana (two - 1991, 1995), Mexico (two - 2005, 2011), Soviet Union (one - 1987), Saudi Arabia (one - 1989), France (one - 2001) and Switzerland (one - 2009).