UAE in same group as Brazil at Fifa Under 17 World Cup

Tough draw sees hosts also take on Honduras and Slovakia in Group A of the tournament, which starts on October 17, reports Paul Oberjuerge.

Mexico won the 2011 Under 17 World Cup final beating Uruguay at the Azteca stadium in Mexico City. Yuri Cortez / AFP
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ABU DHABI // Mustapha Fahmy unscrolled a slip of paper and announced the word “Brazil”, and the crowd in the ballroom at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr Hotel let out a curious sound that was part gasp, part heavy sigh, but also muffled squeals of delight.

Brazil had just been placed in Group A, with the hosts UAE, in what was the emotional zenith of the official draw for the Fifa Under 17 World Cup on Monday night.

A World Cup draw involves a batch of balls and several big fish bowls, and a narrator trying to explain fairly complicated concepts while filling out a bracket, in this case the 24-team, six-city line-up for the fifth Fifa World Cup competition to be contested in this country.

This draw had a UAE flavour, with the national team coach Mahdi Ali and the UAE national Omar Abdulrahman among those manning the fish bowls, along with three Emirati singers and the UAE’s 1990 World Cup goalkeeper Mohsin Musabah. Fahmy was the Fifa man explaining it all.

The host nation will play its group games in Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, as will the world’s most famous footballing nation, Brazil, plus Honduras and Slovakia.

Judging by senior-team reputation and assuming some measure of home-nation advantage, the UAE have a fairly good chance of escaping the group and reaching the 16-team knockout stage. Honduras are solid, but generally unspectacular, and Slovakia have never before played in the youth event.

Perhaps the ticket most in demand for the 52-game tournament, will be that for Day 1, October 17; the doubleheader in Abu Dhabi pitting Brazil and Slovakia in the first game, the UAE and Honduras in the second.

The UAE and Brazil meet on October 20.

The U17 tournament has been the proving ground for many of world football's top players, including the Brazilians Neymar, Ronaldinho and Adriano, as well as elite players such as Luis Figo, Carlos Tevez, Xavi Hernandez, Iker Casillas, Francesco Totti and Cesc Fabregas.

The most difficult foursome might be Group F, based in Al Ain, which includes three-time youth champions Nigeria and two-time champions (and holders) Mexico, as well as Iraq and Sweden, first-timers in the U17 tournament with some history of achievement in international football.

Perhaps the least imposing is Group C, headed for Ras Al Khaimah, which contains Croatia, Morocco, Panama and Uzbekistan; among them they have three previous appearances in the youth World Cup, with a quarter-final as the best result.

The top two teams in the six groups advance, as do the four third-place teams with the best records.

The one-hour draw event was streamed live around the world through the Fifa website, as well as televised locally.

Before the draw began, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the head of the Local Organising Committee, thanked Fifa “for giving us the chance to host the 15th edition of this prestigious tournament”. He added: “I am here to assure you we are fully dedicated to putting on a tournament in keeping with Fifa standards and the ability of the United Arab Emirates to host world-class events.

“The tournament will be a big celebration of the beautiful game. Fans and players of the tournament will bring the people of the world together.”

The tournament is the biggest world football event staged in this country, but not the first. The 2003 U20 event was played here, as was the 2009 Beach Soccer World Cup and the Club World Cups of 2009 and 2010.

“No doubt about it, the experience here of the past will help make the tournament be a tremendous success,” said Rafael Salguero, a Fifa executive committee member.

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