Two-time champions Mexico to face strong rivals in Iraq
Two-time champions Mexico may be the heavyweights in Group F but they will face a strong opponent in Asian champions Iraq in their FIFA U-17 World Cup match here tomorrow.
Since the 2005 edition in Peru, Mexico have been one of the most consistent sides of the tournament having won the title twice in a gap of six years, finishing runners-up in UAE in 2013 and being the semifinalists in Chile in the last edition.
On the other hand, Iraq are one of six sides that have lost all their matches in their maiden and only appearance at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2013.
This time their preparation was affected with a FIFA ban to play matches in the country, which was lifted only in May. But despite all odds, Iraq are here with a promise.
Iraq qualified for this prestigious tournament after emerging victorious in the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship by defeating Iran in the final.
"Our people are passionate about football and everybody is watching matches and to be part of FIFA world Cup after winning the Asian Championship is big honour. We want to go far," Iraq coach Qahtan Jathir said.
Iraq's forward Mohammed Dawood is the player to look out for in the ongoing tournament.
The 16-year-old had led the turnaround for Iraq in the AFC U-16 Championship after they had failed to find the net in the first two matches.
He made a welcome breakthrough against Oman in Iraq's final group-stage match, and then struck a brace against Uzbekistan in the quarter-finals and a hat-trick versus Japan in the last four to emerge top goalscorer and player of the tournament.
Meanwhile, Mexico, who were the last to arrive in India as they were having a pre-conditioning in Spain, would be breathing easy with no Nigeria, who had eliminated them from the final and semi-finals in the 2013 and 2015 respectively, in the tournament.
Mexico have a precocious talent in forward Jairo Torres, who made his Liga MX debut during 2016 Apertura at 16 years of age and was named Golden Ball winner at the CONCACAF qualifying event earlier this year.
The explosive attacker has impressed in the Liga MX U-20 competition, where he was a constant threat for his opponents with his skill of playing on either flank.
Mexico would not be resting on the past laurels and are in no mood to take any team lightly.
"We have changed some players. We have come with the aspiration to win the U-17 World Cup and create history again," chief coach Mario Arteaga said.
Goalkeepers: Victor Andre Alcaraz Diaz, Cesar Ivan Lopez De Alba (Guadalajara); Cesar Rafael Ramos Becerra (Monterrey).
Defenders: Alan Maeda Luevanos (Santos), Luis Alejandro Olivas Salcedo (Guadalajara), Oscar Haret Ortega Gatica (América), Carlos Alejandro Robles Jiménez (Atlas), Adrián Vázquez Hernández (Pachuca), Sergio Villarreal Lozano (Monterrey), Raúl Martín Sandoval Zavala (Tijuana).
Midfielders: Luis Javier Gamíz Ávila (Tijuana), Carlos Eduardo Guerrero Zavala (Leon), Alexis Hazael Gutiérrez Torres (Guadalajara), Diego Laínez Leyva (América), Deivoon Alexander Magaña Rico (Guadalajara), Jesús Andrés Pérez Álvarez (Querétaro), Marco Antonio Ruíz Zarco (Atlas).
Forwards: Ían Jairo Misael Torres Ramírez (Atlas), Roberto Carlos De la Rosa González (Pachucha), César Saúl Huerta Valera (Guadalajara), Daniel Guadalupe López Valdez (Tijuana).
Goalkeepers: Víctor André Alcaráz Díaz, César Iván López De Alba (Guadalajara); César Rafael Ramos Becerra (Monterrey).
Defenders: Ali Raad, Muntadher Abdulsada (Al Hidood); Abdulabbas Ayad, Ammar Mohammed (Al Talaba SC); Maytham Jabbar (Al Shola), Muntadher Mohammed (Al Kahraba), Mohammed Al-Baqer (Al Sina'a FC).
Midfielders: Habeeb Mohammed, Saif Khalid, Mohammed Ridha (Al Talaba SC); Abbas Ali (Al Hussein SC), Bassam Shakir (Al Karkh SC), Mohammed Ali (Al Nagda), Moamel Karim (Al Shorta SC), Ahmed Sartip (Gas Al Shemal).
Forwards: Mohammed Dawood (Al Naft SC), Ali Kareem (Baghdad FC), Alaa Adnaan (Al Nagda).
Match starts: 2000 hours IST