European champions Spain would look to bounce back from their opening match defeat and notch up a win when they take on African debutants Niger in their group match in Kochi on Tuesday.
Spain, who have several players from their country’s top two football academies of La Masia and Real Madrid, were beaten 1-2 by South American champions and hot favourites Brazil in their first Group D match.
The Spaniards took an early lead but allowed the Brazillians to come back into the match and score two goals. They will now have to shrug off that defeat and beat Niger at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium on Tuesday to assert their title ambitions.
Any slip up by Spain, who are chasing their maiden FIFA U-17 World Cup triumph, against an upbeat Niger may lead to complications in the race for a knock-out berth. Spain, who had five players from the famous La Masia academy and four from Real Madrid academy, were hit hard by the high humidity of Kochi in the clash against Brazil.
They were not among those who arrived early to acclimatise to the Indian conditions but they will have to shrug off all these issues.
Brazil never allowed them to showcase their famous ‘tiki-taka’ style of play. The likes of Barcelona’s youth team player and captain Abel Ruiz and Valencia starlet Ferran Torres will have to step up and deliver on Tuesday on that promise.
Ruiz is an attacking player and was one of the La Masia talents courted by top premier league clubs like Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea. He racked up a record 16 goals in the recently-concluded EURO U-17 competition and is considered one of the most exciting talents in the country.
He is more than just a goalscorer. It was under his leadership that Spain won their ninth UEFA European U-17 Championships earlier this year. The 17-year-old Torres is another bright prospect at the moment and two La Liga giants — Barcelona and Real Madrid — have shown interest in the young striker.
Niger, on the other hand, are also upbeat after their maiden win in the U-17 World Cup against North Korea in their campaign opener.
It will not be a cakewalk for Spain tomorrow as Niger have come into this tournament as the giant-killers. They sent five-time U-17 world champions Nigeria crashing out of the India event in the African qualifiers.
In the match against North Korea, Niger were no doubt the better side with more possession and more shots on target. They deservedly won with Salim Abdourahmane scoring the all-important goal in the 59th minute.
But it will be a completely different ball game for Niger when they face the formidable Spaniards, admired for their flair.
Spain: Alvaro Fernandez, Mateu Jaume, Juan Miranda, Hugo Guillamon, Victor Chust, Antonio Blanco, Ferran Torres, Mohamed Moukhliss, Abel Ruiz, Sergio Gomez, Nacho Diaz, Pedro Ruiz. Marc Vidal, Alvaro Garcia, Eric Garcia, Diego Pampin, Jose Lara, Cesar Gelabert, Carlos Beitia, Victor Perea, Alfonso Pastor.
Niger: Moussa Laouali, Yacine Wa Massamba, Mahamadou Mahamane, Nasser Mahaman, Farouk Idrissa, Ismael Issaka, Habibou Sofiane, Kairou Amoustapha, Rachid Alfari, Karim Tinni, Djibrilla Ibrahim, Yacouba Aboubacar, Kader Aboubacar, Rachid Soumana, Abdoulaye Boubacar, Ibrahim Boubacar, Ibrahim Namata, Salim Abdourahmane, Hamid Galissoune, Khaled Lawali.