The U17 World Cup is upon us! With it set to begin on Saturday, October 26th, Brazil is ready to receive the 24 teams who qualified and set their eyes out for glory.
Brian Bertie managed to follow every single team in qualification and will set out a preview of every single team, their expectations and who to watch including a tactical analysis.
The home team of the tournament after Peru was stripped from being hosts. Brazil had a rather poor Sudamericano but there is the argument that they only saw it as a warmup. By that point, Brazil were named as hosts already despite impressing in the first couple of games, a 3-0 loss to Argentina saw them go out first round.
Brazil were not able to call up their star player Reinier Jesus as he was not let go by Flamengo for the tournament. He made his debut coming in as a sub against Emelec in the Copa Libertadores round of 16. He’s been doing quite well when given a chance in the league as well, having three goals and two assists in 398 minutes.
Despite all of this, Brazil in their own home at any level are a force to be reckoned with. They still have some very talented footballers even without their star, and they will surely be a tough nut to crack for anyone. They are one of the favourites to keep the title home.
Who to watch? – Henri Marinho
Height: 189 cm
Position: Centre Back
Some scouts have labelled him as “the best U17 defender in the world”. Of course, it’s never easy to have that title at such a young age, but it’s still very telling that professionals went out of their way to say this.
Henri Marinho plays for Palmeiras, who have really evolved their academy in recent years. He is a CB that is very adept defensively, as he should be, and possesses some ball playing capabilities. He is mostly a solid defender and knows how to play his way out of trouble.
He averaged 5.84 interceptions per 90 in U17 Sudamericano which saw a high of nine interceptions against Uruguay and in total had 25 in four games. He also blocked one shot in every one of those games except for the game against Paraguay.
He will be an important asset to Brazil ensuring good defence at the back.
Henri is a superb interceptor of the ball, able to time his run well in order to surprise his opponent and win the ball back, as demonstrated in the image above.
Not only can he time his run well on the floor, but he can also time his jump in order to intercept the ball in the air.
Honourable Mentions – Gabriel Veron & Kaio Jorge
Some more interesting players on Brazil, Gabriel Veron is another Palmeiras player who has been highly touted by Brazilians and scouts alike. The right-winger will be looking to impress in attack especially with Reinier’s absence.
Kaio Jorge has already made his debut for Santos and will be one to keep an eye on. He has been part of the Brazil process since the U15’s and the forward will be in charge of scoring when needed.
Angola were an interesting side even before the AFCON. They had won the COSAFA U17 championship beating South Africa in the final. Being in the top two, this got them qualified for the Cup of Nations and made it out of a tough group consisting of Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria.
Angola isn’t a name that sticks out to most football fans besides producing the odd good footballer. They aren’t in the toughest group though and can make headlines as they have the talent to be a surprise in the tournament.
Who to watch? – Zito Luvumbo
Club: 1 de Agosto
Height: 1,71 metres
Position: Right winger
The first name that comes to mind is Zito Luvumbo, who has a very interesting backstory.
After a good COSAFA tournament, he was spotted by scouts from clubs such as Benfica and Manchester United. In fact, he went to the latter on trial due to his impressive performances. While this was nothing more than a trial, it wasn’t for nothing that he got the opportunity.
Zito is a right-winger. Strong and very good at dribbling. His crossing technique is good and can cross in a composed manner. He is touted as Angola’s biggest talent and has made his senior national team debut for his country.
Over two legs against Gambia, he totalled three progressive runs, two successful crosses out of six and three successful dribbles out of six as well. He left a real impression with fans in 54 minutes over the two legs and while he wasn’t able to bag a goal nor an assist, he left the flashes of talent at a senior level.
As for how he did at the U17 AFCON, he managed three goals and two assists in a total of five games and was able to get at least one shot assist in every game. He also averaged 4.53 shots on target per game, with 57% of his shots being on target. He was a tad predictable at times, but the numbers speak for how teams had trouble nullifying him from the game.
Also, to add onto his overall dribbling ability, he averaged 17.32 dribbles per game, which a huge 63% of them were successful.
Below we have an example of Zito’s speed, dribbling and ability to get forward with progressive runs.
Zito is behind his marker and receives the ball from a teammate. Normally he would receive the first touch and hold up the ball against the opposition and allow players to run up for a potential counter.
Instead, Luvumbo believes in his ability and is able to beat his marker. There is also little cover behind him, and Zito is able to exploit the space.
After beating his marker, he’s home safe. He is easily able to outspeed everyone else and go as far as he needs to.
He ended up getting right outside the box from the midfield.
Honourable Mentions – Capita
Capita plays on the opposite wing to Zito Luvumbo and is probably Angola’s second-best player. He may not have had trials at European sides unlike his teammate but finished top scorer in qualification and was a solid player on the left who proved to be hard to stop.
It is never easy to judge the Oceanian sides as they reach these tournaments with little competition. New Zealand is what you’d expect of them really. A somewhat competitive side with the ability to upset but won’t get that far in the tournament.
They won the U16 OFC championship last year as would be expected of them, but they didn’t make easy work of it. They won in the final against the Solomon Islands on penalties and even lost to the same team by a scoreline of 5-0 in the group stages.
Also, it should be noted not many of their players are in the Phoenix or Auckland City academy. Not that it’s something that will tell you whether that’s good or bad for the Kiwis however compared to the last time where they did have a couple of players in Wellington, it’s certainly different.
Who to watch? – Henry Hamilton
Club: Wellington Phoenix Reserves
Height: 1,70 metres
Perhaps the biggest name from New Zealand is Henry Hamilton. The young Kiwi midfielder was New Zealand’s top scorer in the OFC U16 and did it all as a midfielder. He managed to bag six goals overall. He did have a past in Wellington Phoenix but currently plies his trade at Lower Hutt City AFC also based in the city of Wellington.
Canada is a weird case. Their squad has been met with criticism as there are no CanPL players, and only one player not playing in one of the MLS development academies (Whitecaps, Impact or TFC). They had a very decent run in CONCACAF but aren’t too technically gifted. This analysis will show how Toronto FC’s youth player, Jayden Nelson could help Canada escape their group.
They were 2-0 up against USA in their CONCACAF U17 debut against the USA but lost the game in the second half as the Americans were able to turn it around in the second half. They were outmatched for most of the game, even once 2-0 up. This is just one of many examples. They were also peppered in the semifinals against the same team.
This is not to say they are bad. They have every chance to make it through this group. However, they certainly aren’t tournament favourites. Canada have come a long way since their fall after winning the Gold Cup in 2000 and qualifying for this tournament was a great achievement. This is a proper test to see where their youth program is at. Hopefully, they can emulate the success of the Women’s program, whose tactics helped them get to the WWC knockout round.
Who to watch? – Jayden Nelson
Club: Toronto FC II
Height: 1,70 metres
Position: Left winger
Nelson was Canada’s top scorer at the U17’s with five goals. He didn’t get a proper go until game two against Guatemala where he hit the ground running. He is a left-winger with a more goalscoring mind. He managed five goals but no assists.
He had an xG of 0.62 in the U17’s and got 71% of his shots on target, which was about 2.7 per game. Not a staggering amount, but a very good success percentage.
One thing that should be noted is he also has high dribbling percentage. He got about 8.2 dribbles per 90 but had a success percentage of 61%. To put it short, he gets a lot of things right and is consistent in that sense.
In the USL, he has similar stats in terms of dribbling. Around the same number of dribbles per game, but a 55% success rate.
Jayden drifts from his position to fight back the ball in midfield, demonstrating impressive work rate and tactical freedom.
Nelson uses his strength to fend off his marker and is able to hold him off long enough to get in a comfortable position to escape a sticky situation.
Jayden uses his impressive dribbling ability to escape from about 3 players marking him. Against the USA, he had won 100% of his dribbles in 6 attempts.
The young Canadian is able to win the duel and finds himself more open as a result.
Honourable Mentions – Kamron Habibullah
The Canadian forward was impressive in the U17 CONCACAF championship and will look to continue impressing in Brazil. He was Canada’s second. top scorer after Nelson and will likely be one of the key assets to this team during the World Cup.
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