FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017: New Caledonia announce 21-man squad for showpiece event
What's the story?
New Caledonia, who are making their FIFA debut in any age-group tournament, announced their U-17 team for the FIFA U-17 World Cup to be played in India next month. With their presence, they become the sixth team from the Oceanic region to appear in the main draw of a FIFA U-17 competition.
Who are they?
Endearingly called Les Caguos (The Kagus) after the bluish-grey bird native to this island nation in the South Pacific, the New Caledonian lads could have participated in the U-17 World Cup tournament earlier. In 2013, they booked their first OFC U-17 Championship final berth but were later found to be ineligible to qualify for the real deal.
They ultimately ended up being the runners-up that year and that is their best place finish so far which they also replicated it in the continental affair this year as well. The OCF U-17 2009 saw them come third and except for 2011; they have managed a top-four finish (five times) in every tournament that they have participated.
Heart of the matter
This young team has one of the youngest coaches, Dominique Wacalie, 35, who is a recent appointee too. Wacalie, who had experienced the game as a midfielder in France’s lower-divisions and retired in 2014, took over from Michael Clarque only this April.
He may not have the benefit of midfielder Christian Karembeu, who won the 1998 World Cup playing for France but he looks to do good with the brood at his disposal.
Here are they:
Goalkeepers: Unê Kecine (FC Dumbea), Robin Escorne (Magenta), Gaizka Ipeze (Mont-Dore)
Defenders: Jean-Pierre Enoka (Magenta), Bernard Iwa (Qanono Sport), Cameron Wadenges (Magenta), Kiam Wanesse (Taramene Sports), Henry Welepane (Tiga Sports), Paul Wananije (Qanono Sports), Jules Omei (Mont-Dore)
Midfielders: Pierre Bako (AS Wetr), Josuah Hlemu (Mont-Dore), Abiezer Jeno (Dumbea FC), Raymond Galé Luewadia (Gaïtcha), Cyril Nyipie (Mont-Dore), Neil Wahiobe (Païta FC), Raoul Wenisso (Gaïtcha)
Forwards: Vita Longue (Mont-Dore), Theo Bosshard (Baco), Titouan Richard (Mont-Dore), Lionel Thahnaena (Qanono Sports)
New Caledonia take on their one-time colonizers France in their opening gambit on October 8th at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. It’s an interesting proposition because due to their own team's dismal showing in the world of football, most in the country support France in big-ticket tournaments, but with the home team just about beginning to make inroads into the limelight, loyalties may be revised.
That apart, in the Group E where they are placed, they will clash with Honduras at the same venue three days later. For their last group match against Japan on October 14th, they will travel to the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.
Wacalie will need all the experience that he can summon to steer his side to the next stage.
Being a first-time qualifier has its advantages and disadvantages. They might allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the big stage or they make most of the opportunity. They might rather take advantage of the opponent’s cluelessness about their style of play while they get to do the necessary homework and form a strategy. All said and done, their primary aim is to make it through to the next round and take it from there.
Wouldn’t it be fabulous if they could beat the odds that they have created?