Analysis: India's group stage opponents at FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup
USA might be the top-ranked country in women's football, but their U-17 World Cup fortunes haven't been as good. Morocco are debutants like India. Brazil, on the other hand, would pose a different challenge.
India will be making their debut appearance in the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup this year, having been given automatic qualification on the basis of being the host nation.
They are in Group A of the event, which will be held from October 11 to 30, alongside 2008 runners-up United States, Brazil and Morocco.
In the draw which was held on Friday, India avoided meeting all of the past champions of the U-17 World Cup - Spain, France, Japan, South Korea and North Korea are the countries who have won this event since it began in 2008.
They will now hope to finish in the top two of their group and advance to the quarterfinals. Notably, in the six previous editions of the event, no host nation has ever reached the semifinals, all losing in the group stage.
Hosts India will kick off the tournament on October 11 against the United States, followed by the match against Morocco on October 14. The final group match between India and Brazil will be on October 17. All of India's matches will be played at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
vs USA on October 11
The USA are the top-ranked side in FIFA Women's rankings, but have not had that reflected in their U17 World Cup showings. Except for their 2nd place finish in 2008, they have never progressed to the knockouts.
While the United States has never played India in international women's soccer, US midfielder Mia Bhuta is of Indian descent and hails from Pittsburgh. She served as captain during World Cup qualifying in the Dominican Republic. The team won the 2022 CONCACAF U-17 Women's Championship, beating Mexico 2-1 in the final. Over the course of the tournament, they outscored their opponents 58-1 in seven games.
Samantha Mewis, Kristie Mewis, Morgan Gautrat and Crystal Dunn, all of whom helped the USA reach the final in the inaugural tournament in 2008; Andi Sullivan, Midge Purce, Jane Campbell, Ashley Sanchez, Sophia Smith, Naomi Girma, Jael Howell and Trinity Rodman are among those who have played for the USA in a FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup and eventually made their way to the senior national team.
vs Morocco on October 14
Like India, Morocco will be competing in their first FIFA Women's World Cup at any level.
They qualified by defeating Ghana in the fourth and final round of the arduous 2022 African U-17 Women's World Cup qualifying tournament. After losing the first leg 2-0 in Accra, Morocco won 2-0 at home in Rabat and then won the penalty kick shootout 4-2 to secure their historic berth in the tournament.
Known as the 'Atlas Lionesses', Morocco would seem to be India's easiest opponents in the group on paper. Some of the current team's star players who play abroad are Yassine Kechta (Le Havre) and Haitam Abaida (Malaga).
vs Brazil on October 17
Possibly the toughest group match for India. Brazil have the best record among the three teams in Group A. They will be compete in the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup for the sixth time, having reached the quarterfinals in 2010 and 2012.
They have been in peak form this year as well. They won the South American U-17 Women's Championship in Uruguay in 2022 and qualified for the World Cup by finishing third. Brazil cruised through their group matches, outscoring their opponents 21-0, and then won all three games in the final stage, defeating third-place finishers Chile (8-0), Paraguay (3-0), and Colombia (1-0) to win the South American U-17 title for the fourth time.