The U17 World Cup is upon us! It is set to begin on Saturday, October 26th, and Brazil is ready to receive the 24 teams who qualified and have 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.
Nigeria having won this tournament five times can never be ruled out as favourites to triumph in Brazil. Despite not winning the U17 AFCON, they are probably still the best and most technically gifted African side to play in this World Cup. They are fast on the wings, have good communication as a team and has a classy through ball in them. Very attacking side and that’s not expected to change here.
One weakness in the side is that they are very wasteful. This is what cost them in the AFCON. They went out in the semi-finals on penalties against Guinea. Should their tactics have been worked on, Nigeria are one of the favourites to take the trophy home.
Who to watch?
Club: Giant Brilliants FC
Height: 161 cm
One of the standout talents in AFCON. The left-winger really showed a lot in the tournament and should he have a good World Cup for Nigeria, he has every chance to make a move to Europe.
He’s a very classy winger. He’s very good at dribbling. He has a 61% success rate out of 6.95 dribbles per 90. He also averages about 2.25 shot assists per game, so he’s a progressive player that looks for a chance either for himself or for others.
It’s hard to call him a playmaker as he has 1.84 through balls per game. This could seem like a very decent figure for a left-winger, but keep in mind this is inflated by his seven passes against Angola. Every other game he has had one or less.
So, he’s definitely a progressive forward more than a playmaker. He’ll run up the wing, cut inside if he must and either take a shot or make a regular pass to a partner.
Ubani battles with his marker who wants to intercept a possible pass.
Two possible scenarios here while Ubani runs from his marker to find space: his teammate can either lift it over to him (as the arrow depicts above) or a floor pass.
In this situation, Ubani’s teammate took way too long to pass and it got intercepted. However, you can see the off the ball movement even with that.
Club: Sidos FC
Height: 163 cm
Position: Right winger
On the opposite wing to Ubani, we have Amoo who is a year older than the 2003 born Ubani. Amoo is certainly more of a complete winger than Wisdom is. He doesn’t have as much of a dribbling success rate as his counterpart does, but he is more of a playmaker, attempting many through balls throughout the tournament for Nigeria.
As mentioned, he attempts about 10.84 dribbles per game, to which around 42% are successful. His dribbling game seems to be inconsistent, to say the least. Against Angola, he only got 2/13 dribbles won, but against Tanzania he got 50%, having won 9/18.
He is less of a goalscorer and is really more of a playmaker. His xG is only 0.28, and he only managed one goal in the AFCON U17, but he’s very progressive and is essential in Nigeria’s build up. Per 90, his forward to back passes is 16.48/3.69. He thinks forward really.
Despite not having any assists in the U17 qualification, he is key to Nigeria’s playmaking and build up which will make them continue to dish out chance after chance.
An example of Amoo’s off the ball movement. As you can see, the ball is on the other side of the pitch. However, Akinkunmi doesn’t back down and sees open space in the box.
Amoo doesn’t have a marker, so he’s able to freely run into open space to receive the ball from his teammate.
Once he gets the ball, he can first time it or maybe dribble once to get comfort and shoot straight at goal. Unfortunately in this situation, the cross over to Amoo wasn’t great and was intercepted. However, this was clever off the ball movement from the Nigerian.
The forward for Nigeria is a very good target man as he has a high number of touches in the box average per game, ranking at 5.6. He is very important to the playmaking aspect of this team.
While Ecuador are perhaps the weakest of the South American teams, that isn’t to say they are bad at all. They are stacked with talent perhaps let down a little by tactical discipline.
They are a forward-thinking team that lacks defence a little but know how to score goals and they really are just waiting to click. That moment could well be here.
Who to watch?
Height: 176 cm
Position: Attacking midfielder
The undisputed star of this Ecuador team. He was monitored by a couple European sides after the U17 Sudamericano including sides like Chelsea. Finished top scorer of the tournament with 6 goals.
He is actually a number 10. He’s more of a playmaker than a scorer. His xG is quite low for someone who took home the golden boot. It is 0.32 because his shots on target are only at 48% with about four per 90.
His xA however, is very high. It is at 0.34. Keep in mind that it is tougher to get an assist than a goal because of how unclear the rules are. So despite only being 0.02 more, it is still a high figure.
He only got two assists in the tournament and perhaps the stat is so high because of his passing to final third. He puts in 4.52 through balls per game in which only 38% is accurate. He also only got one second assist, but he shines in passes to the final third or to the box. With the former, he puts in about 8.24 per game, however 72% are accurate. As for the latter, he puts in 6.12 per game in which 52% are successful.
Johan Mina runs with the ball out left while he draws an opposing defender making space for his teammate up front to make the run.
Johan clearly notices him so within the space created, he can make a through ball forward in order to get him within the box.
Mina executes it perfectly and his teammate is now clear at goal.
Height: 174 cm
Position: Central Midfielder
Pluas is an interesting one. He’s a deep-lying midfielder for Ecuador that acts as a playmaker. He likes putting long forward passes up to the forwards but doesn’t progress much off the ball. If you were to look at his heat map, you can see he doesn’t move into the final third.
He’s very good defensively as well. Per 90 he has about 4.37 interceptions per game. He also wins 65% of his 12.77 defensive duels per game, which is a great total. He’s also disciplined as despite having lots of defensive duties, he only got one yellow card in the qualification.
In terms of construction, he puts in a massive 25.38 passes forward per game, 64% of which are accurate. He also has 11.79 passes to final third which has around the same percentage of success. Finally, he put in 7.34 long balls per game, in which 43% were accurate.
One of the most naturally talented players on this Ecuador team. Had very quick feet and dribbles plenty per game. Usually about 11.23 times per game. The left-winger is one of the biggest danger factors this Ecuadorian side.
Australia have been struggling at youth level for a while. Locals have been bigging up this side more compared to teams of the past.
They are not very technically gifted but work very well as a team. The standouts have what they need to be able to lead this side back into the U17 World Cup and they will certainly be an interesting one to watch out for.
Who to watch?
Height: 183 cm
The Aussie striker was superb in the AFC U16. He was a very good target man up front who was able to hold up the ball and create chances for himself or for others.
He finished joint top scorer at the AFC U16 with five goals. These goals were either deadlock breaking or late goals to seal the deal, so he’s also a big game player.
Most of the Australian players were in the A-League development academy, but Botic was playing for Rockdale City Suns. He is now playing in Germany for Hoffenheim, and him playing for an NPL side made him an easy pickup for the Germans.
There aren’t any stats regarding the AFC U16 championship unfortunately, but there are some regarding Hoffenheim’s U19’s. It should be mentioned that his xG currently ranks at 0.53 per 90 for the German side. He also has 5.53 touches in the box, which backs up the point made earlier about him holding up the ball.
Club: Western United
Height: 182 cm
Position: Attacking midfielder
Duzel is a Melbourne lad, having been part of Melbourne City back when the AFC U16 championship was played. Today he forms part of Western United’s youth teams, the newly formed A-League side in the same city.
Duzel is perhaps the most technically gifted player in this Australian side. He scored just one goal in qualification but showed more playmaking capabilities for the Aussies. He and Botic linked up very well, so he has a good partnership with the no.9 and that brings us back to how this team is well drilled. The 1-2’s aren’t too rare within these two.
Below we can see an example of the link-up play between Duzel and Botic.
Botic receives the ball and immediately passes it to Luke Duzel. Once he does, he makes a run for it while his teammate plays the 1-2.
The Australian playmaker executes the pass well and Noah Botic is clear on goal.
This results in a goal and is a good example of a practised play in a team with good chemistry.
Teague is an important part of this Australia side. While not as technically gifted as the two mentioned above, he’s a solid ball-winning midfielder. He’s gonna be key to Australia’s defensive game.
Perhaps the weakest of the European sides, Hungary are still trying to make an impression. They made it via the World Cup playoffs after losing in the UEFA U17 quarterfinals against Spain.
This group will be a big test to see where they are at.
Who to watch?
Club: Racing Genk
Height: 186 cm
The young Hungarian currently plays for Genk and participates in the UEFA youth league. He was Hungary’s top scorer in qualification with three goals and was impressive going forward.
He had 2.07 progressive runs per game and also had 2.72 touches in the box. Our analysis shows that he is a strong forward who likes to go down and help progress the game.
As soon as Nemeth received the ball, he shows some impressive acceleration.
Andras bursts forward and only goes in that same direction. He keeps progressing the game as long as he has the space. Also, notice the distance between him and his marker.
Nemeth was able to win the footrace and gets close to the final third.
Donat is mostly a right-back, but can also play on the left. Very good defensively as he wins half of his defensive duels per game, but he also tends to go forward a lot. Has 11.16 recoveries per game with half of those being in the opposing half and gets about 4.09 dribbles per game.
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