Revisited: 2017 Under-17 FIFA World Cup
October, 2017: England were crowned Under-17 World Cup champions for the first time in the nation's history after fighting back from two goals down against Spain.
Revenge for their European Under-17 Championship defeat earlier in the year was sweet, the 5-2 victory the perfect end to a tournament overflowing with exciting contests and the individual talent to match.
Phil Foden, Rhian Brewster and Marcos Antônio picked up the Scouted Football individual awards, earning the Golden, Silver and Bronze Ball respectively. FIFA awarded Sergio Gómez their Silver award but also included the England duo in their honours list.
It should not come as a surprise therefore to find all four names in our best of the best from a stunning tournament in India, but without further introduction, Scouted Football presents our 2017 FIFA Under-17 Team of the Tournament in all its glory.
Country: Brazil Club: Cruzeiro; now Real Oviedo, on loan from Internazionale
29 saves in 630 minutes of football with just three goals conceded, one coming from the penalty spot. There were plenty of reasons why Gabriel Brazão is Scouted Football’s No.1. Rightfully awarded the Golden Glove for proving so difficult to beat, the individual award was very much his own.
Brazil defended through their dominance of their possession rather than their ability to repel the opposition, meaning that when they came under threat it was Gabriel they turned to as their principal means of preventing goals, rather than a last resort. A goalkeeper with brilliant reactions, the Brazilian shot stopper produced a number of saves that had anyone watching release a quick gasp. Denying opposition players from point-blank range almost became a speciality, and it was the strength of his hands behind each save that stood out the most. An imposing figure already, his place in our Team of the Tournament is undoubted. The further Brazil progressed in the competition, the more he was tested. He passed every one with flying colours and flying saves to match.
He has spoken of his admiration of Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson, and whilst it is certainly too soon for him to be looking over his shoulder, Gabriel did nothing but enhance his reputation this month. By Jake Entwistle.
Country: Mali Club: AS Bamako; now FC Familicão
If someone were to make a prototype for the ‘modern-day’ full-back, Fode Konaté would be produced on a mass scale for teams around the world.
Mali came into the tournament as U-17 AFCON Champions so to say they were a surprise package would be a disservice. Yet, Fode Konaté’s mastery of the right-back role was certainly one of the standout themes of their tournament.
The fact he scored two goals and recorded one assist is a product of his relentless galloping into the final third. By flying up and down the right-hand touchline, he allowed his teammates inside him to thrive and create on the ball whilst he wreaked havoc off of it.
Adept at providing width with a tried-and-tested overlap, Mali’s fluidity in attack was also evident due to Konaté receiving the ball inside his winger on occasion, helping knit together moves in the centre of the pitch which more often than not resulted in a chance to score.
When Drame was on the right, Konate’s role seemed more orthodox; but when Djemoussa was operating from his side, Mali’s No.4 drifted infield more often and the underlap became common practice. Being able to develop two unique partnerships with both wingers is impressive in itself.
The quarter-final match against Ghana caused him the most problems, mainly due to the unplayable nature of the pitch, but it would be wrong not to acknowledge what he can improve.
He excels running off the ball and into open spaces, but when found isolated in a one-on-one or one-on-two situation, he can struggle.
Country: England Club: Manchester City; now Swansea City
A World Cup winning captain is always likely to feature in the post-tournament list of best players, but with or without the armband, Joel Latibeaudiere’s place in this side was one of the easiest to cast.
Playing every minute of every single game, Latibeaudiere was a commanding presence throughout the tournament and integral to England’s success. It was perhaps the semi-final match against Brazil in which he shone the brightest.
Covering for Steven Sessegnon he was either caught too high up the pitch or beaten one-on-one the England centre-back assumed janitor duty and swept up any threat Brazil looked to pose on his side of the pitch.
If not for Rhian Brewster’s second hat-trick of the tournament, the Man of the Match award would have been his.
Despite not being the tallest defender—at 17 he still has a chance to grow—Latibeaudiere is already a complete defensive weapon.
Able to match any striker on the floor, keeping up with the quicker players at the tournament and matching every stride in a foot race, he is comfortable when opposition players challenge his pace.
Equally, and most impressively so, was his dominance in the aerial battles. Out-jumping almost every forward he came up against, the Manchester City centre-back stood out as a towering presence at the heart of England’s defence.
Combining such a dominance in the air with sure-footedness on the floor is what makes him such a valuable player to have.
Even when England had the ball he was just as comfortable and confident in his ability. Bringing the ball out from the back and realising when to simply give to the likes of McEachran is testament to his decision making.
With so many goals scored by England, we can be forgiven for overlooking the impact of the most defensive-minded players on the team. But in Joel Latibeaudiere’s case, his influence on England’s maiden World Cup trophy cannot be overstated. By Jake Entwistle.
Country: Spain Club: Real Madrid
Spain may have conceded five against England in the final but up until the second-half blitz, their defence remained solid whilst providing a perfect platform to build every attack. At the centre of it all, in every sense, was Real Madrid’s Victor Chust. Perhaps the most assured defender on the ball in the entire tournament. With plenty of mistakes being made throughout the U17 World Cup, Chust instilled confidence in his teammates with his composure on the ball and his use of it. Able to launch an attack single-footedly with raking passes from the heart of defence, Spain’s No.5 was equally as reliable in finding the right midfield teammate in the most space to bring Spain forward and create chances.
At times, he even bypassed his midfield altogether and looked for the surging full-backs alongside him to begin with. The influence of Spain’s full-backs at U-17 level has been a feature of their success this year and in Victor Chust that have a reliable source to find them even when the midfield becomes congested. Whilst he and the rest of his side may have struggled against England’s pace and movement in the final, his performances in the preceding games against France and Mali go a long way in showcasing the full extent of his ability.
Defending against one of the most prolific strikers at this level, Amine Gouiri, the Spain centre-back was commanding and played a major role in keeping him quiet. The most consistent performer in a defensive sense for Spain with an extremely bright future ahead of him. Real Madrid seems a perfect fit. By Jake Entwistle.
Country: Spain Club: FC Barcelona; on loan at Real Betis
Juan Miranda certainly did not do a disservice to his burgeoning La Masia reputation with his performances at the Under-17 World Cup.
Arriving in India with stronger and bulkier frame by comparison to most full-backs and opposition wingers, Miranda stood out at left-back with his ability to physically beat out opponents defensively.
He played quite deep as Spain progressed through the tournament and started playing more difficult opponents, yet their left-back was a willing contributor to attacks on the counter.
His excellence in the attacking third was exemplified in the final with a stupendous cross that led to Spain’s opening goal in the final.
Making an incisive, inverted run through the unguarded left half-space, Miranda latched onto an overhit Abel Ruiz pass before miraculously directing a cross at a seemingly impossible angle back towards Ruiz in the box. It was inch-perfect.
Miranda proved to be a consistent threat all tournament for a team that largely relied on its width for penetration.
Spain were best on the counter, and it meant largely bypassing their midfield, so the role of the full-back in turning defence into attack was critical. In all facets of this role, Miranda excelled because of his positional awareness, durability and technical ability - both in control and distribution.
The shaggy-haired, long-legged Spaniard will certainly return to Barcelona hoping achieve what compatriot Alex Grimaldo was unable to in the past, and break into his boyhood side’s starting XI. By Stephen Ganavas.
Country: Brazil Club: Athletico Paranaense; now Shalhtar Donetsk
Marcos Antonio was the ever-present cog in a Brazil team that always seemed reluctant to play at their maximum level.
The bustling Brazilian proved to be arguably the most delightful passer of the football to watch at the tournament alongside Salam Jiddou and Yacine Adli; his ability to hit the target under pressure was immense.
His willingness to spray difficult passes out wide to the attacking threats of Brenner and, in particular, Paulinho, always threatened to unlock opposition defences.
Furthermore, his assist for Paulinho’s winner in Brazil’s opening group game against Spain was one of the best of the tournament; an unbelievable chipped reverse pass that pierced the defence in one motion.
Antonio has a nose for the ball. His free role in the midfield saw him utilised in a playmaking role from deep, yet he was still burdened with many of the responsibilities of a traditional box-to-box midfielder on the defensive end.
The Brazilian always had a nose for an opportunity at the top of the box though. When the likes of Alan, Lincoln, Brenner and Paulinho vacated that space, Antonio dutifully filled it. He proved to be fond of a long-range effort on goal too, while also remaining aware of the options around him.
There is so much to like about the Scouted Football Bronze Ball winner. He is one of those players that simply does everything at a great level, meaning he can fill gaps all through the midfield.
Now hopefully a return to Brazil will include first-team football for this short, but superbly skilled starlet. By Stephen Ganavas.
Country: France Club: Paris Saint-Germain; now Girondins Bordeaux
*Not* Adrien Rabiot.
The only player to feature in our starting XI who did not make it to the semi-final, exceptions had to be made for the supreme talent that Yacine Adli is. With France dominant in the Group Stages and failing to progress further in the knockout stages once again, it is no fault of their silky-smooth No.7.
Slicing defences to ribbons with incisive passing and a graceful carrying of the ball, Yacine Adli confirmed himself as a Scouted Football favourite throughout the tournament. Registering five assists in 253 minutes of football is outstanding output, especially from a central midfield position.
Many teams focussed their efforts out wide and created chances through low crosses from the by-line. Such is Adli’s talent on the ball that he was able to circumvent a single defence with just one swing of his foot. His delicate touches in the middle of the pitch made him difficult to tackle and his intelligence on the ball saw him pick the right pass at the right moment on almost every occasion.
In perpetual motion on the pitch, Adli drifts into the spaces of midfield to pick up the ball and cause damage with it, all whilst looking supremely composed and unfazed by any amount of opposition pressure. France have been blessed with a generation of incredible talent with explosive pace and devastating skill on the ball. Adli is a throwback to a gentler time, his graceful style is not as eye-catching at first glance but the possibility of being hypnotised by the way he plays football is very real. Consider Scouted Football well and truly under his spell. By Jake Entwistle.
Country: Mali Club: Jean-Marc Gillou Academy; now AS Monaco
The silky Salam Jiddou announced himself at this tournament with a range of influential performances dictating terms for Mali’s sumptuous attacking quartet.
Despite not being a massive possessor of the football, Jiddou is impactful through his penetrative distribution. When deep, the Malian looked to spread the play wide to the quick and damaging duo of Djemoussa Traore and Hadji Drame.
However, at his best, Jiddou is able to dribble his way through tangles of legs and unlock the game centrally. Mali striker Lassana N’Diaye has his attacking midfielder to thank for attracting a lot of attention from central defenders as he marauded through the midfield.
Talking to footballmadeinghana.com, Ghanain FA sporting director remarked on the quality of Jiddou before Ghana’s quarter-final clash with the Malians.
“The Malians has a very good midfield especially the boy in the number 10 who is a very dangerous and fantastic player. He can decide a game with any chance he gets,” Francis Oti said.
Jiddou also enjoyed an attempt on goal from distance in what seemed like a concerted effort from his team to shoot on sight.
He grabbed what was arguably the goal of the tournament with a searing first-time strike from 35-yards against New Zealand to open the scoring.
Country: England Club: Manchester City
Phil Foden arrived at this tournament with the love of Pep Guardiola and a select array of fans, that had seen him play a preseason game in Houston against Manchester United, in tow.
He finished the tournament the undoubted best player, with a myriad of exceptional performances underpinned by the footballing intelligence of someone much more experienced.
Operating out on the right, Foden’s tendency to drift into the right half-space as an inside forward became most effective once Steven Sessegnon had forced his way into the starting XI. Together, they formed a superb partnership with Foden routinely pre-assisting his right-back.
The Manchester City starlet is listed at around the 5’7” mark, but his physical attributes are a made to seem irrelevant due to his absurd technical quality.
While we at Scouted Football are no fans of the ‘ball sticks to his foot like glue’ cliche, Foden’s tight control makes him almost impossible to dispossess. Defenders struggle to get close enough to him to allow be physical with him, and even then, he has an uncanny ability to roll of challenges and keep his footing.
Should he continue to develop his left-footed strike, Foden will be even more dangerous when cutting in from the left. Regularly at this World Cup, he was unable to test the goalkeeper with consistency as he routinely seemed to scuff shots.
His match-winning performance in the final showed that he can be a tidy finisher from within the confines of the penalty area though.
Back in England, the Foden name will now carry much more wait. For Pep Guardiola, it means pressure to create a space in his devastating City attack to give some minutes for the 17-year-old. For City fans, it means a possible decade ahead of greatness. By Stephen Ganavas.
Country: Spain Club: FC Barcelona; now SD Huesca, on loan from Borussia Dortmund
One of the biggest revelations from the U-17 World Cup has been that Sergio Gomez has a €3 million buyout clause. Barcelona will be clamouring to rectify that after the dazzling performances of their 17-year-old winger at this tournament.
An ever-present early in the tournament without the end product to match his performances, Gomez saved his best football for last. His two goals in the final, the second a peach of a volley that left England goalkeeper Curtis Anderson rooted to the spot, were simply superb.
He always seemed very at home in the penalty area, whether it be finishing chances or dribbling in order to create for others.
The Spaniard’s direct style varies from the typical La Masia stereotype, but he makes it no less effective. Often stretching the play to allow for inverted runs for Juan Miranda at left-back, Gomez’s clever movement opened up a Spain attack that relied greatly on the width he and Ferran Torres provided.
His speed and willingness to play high up the pitch meant that he was often able to isolate opposition full-backs and create overloads with Miranda. As a creator, he is also rather fond of those sliding, curling passes out wide to the onrushing full-back. He is also a brilliant set-piece taker.
Country: England Club: Liverpool; now Sheffield United
Golden Boot winner. Scouted Football Silver Ball, FIFA Bronze Ball. Rhian Brewster had a World Cup to remember.
In a similar way to how Cristiano Ronaldo is recognised for his performances in the biggest games, the Liverpool forward’s contribution in the knockout stages was almost unrivalled. Rhian Brewster became only the second player in FIFA U16/U17 World Cup history to score back-to-back hat-tricks in the knockout stages of the competition.
Most importantly of all, he scored England’s first goal in every single knockout game. The opener against USA, the early goal against Brazil and the first of England’s fantastic fightback in the final.
Finishing the tournament with eight goals and one assist, Brewster worked in perfect tandem with the attacking midfielders behind him.
Interchanging passes and working off of England’s ball-carrying trio behind the main striker, his movement inside the box was phenomenal. It is no accident that the vast majority of his Golden Boot-winning tally were scored inside the box from low crosses.
England’s system and the players within in it was built to create overloads out wide and subsequently find the striker ghosting in between defenders inside the box; which their No.9 did excellently. The Liverpool striker had plenty of chances in the group stages to increase his overall tally, and whilst his finishing may have let him down early on, his eagerness to carve out opportunities for himself and the cleverness of his movement was apparent throughout the tournament. A brilliant tournament punctuated by a history-making contribution when it mattered most. And just as Dominic Solanke picked up the Golden Boot in South Korea with the U20 side, Liverpool have another England starlet returning with the highest goal scoring honour in tow. By Jake Entwistle.
Country: Ghana Club: Asante Kotoko FC
Yes, we acknowledge that Ibrahim Danlad made one of the howlers of the tournament in the quarter-final all-African encounter with Mali. But, Danlad is 14. As the youngest player at the tournament, Dunlad was the commander of one of the World Cup’s tightest defences.
In qualifying for the tournament, the Ghanaian stood out for his strength in keeping opponents out from the penalty spot. In the CAF qualifying final against Mali, he saved two first half penalties and ultimately won that tournament’s golden glove.
In India, he routinely looked safe both with the ball in his hands and the ball on the deck. With his mistake, he was unlocked by both poor decision making and by the horrifically poor conditions that had seen torrential rain flood the pitch before kick-off. But, apart from that his reflex shot-stopping was routinely excellent.
He can look suspect at times challenging for the ball in the air, but we must put into perspective that he is 14. If Ghana qualify again in 2019, expect to see him challenging for aerials with more conviction and confidence.
Country: England Club: Fulham; now Bristol City
Steven Sessegnon (bottom left) was England's assist king from full-back.
Steven Sessegnon was gifted a place in the starting XI in England’s third group game against Iraq after a suspension to Timothy Eyoma, and never looked back.
After the departure of Jadon Sancho from the World Cup, much of England’s best attacking play shifted over to the right-hand side of the pitch. There, Sessegnon provided an excellent attacking foil to the superb Phil Foden. He was destructive as he hit the by-line, always looking to be played in by Foden, who drifted inside and drew the opposition left-back with him.
The quality of Sessegnon’s own end product had nothing to do with Foden though. He was routinely excellent in his delivery of the ball to the clinical Rhian Brewster, with his method of chest-high whipped crossing proving to be a hit with his compatriot.
At times a little suspect defensively, especially against Brazil in a match where he was routinely skinned by the tricky Brenner, Sessegnon’s attacking threat was well worth the defensive worries. This rang especially true when one considered who he was being covered by; the immense Joel Latibeaudiere.
Having already made his senior debut for Fulham, Sessegnon will now return to Craven Cottage where he may find himself lined up alongside his twin brother Ryan, who was not released for the World Cup. Together, they could form a very formidable duo at left and right-back for Fulham in the years to come. By Stephen Ganavas.
Country: Iran Club: Esteghlal; now on loan at HNK Gorica from RSC Charleroi
Younes Delfi put in arguably the single best performance of the entire U-17 World Cup in Iran’s 4-0 group stage demolition of Germany. In that game, Delfi scored twice and laid on one assist while pressing the life out of the German defence.
His advanced midfield role tied Iran’s attack together. He made it flow. Constantly, the 17-year-old moved to the left flank and to the right flank, mainly the right, needling away at opposition defences with his quick feet and impressive strength.
His love of the right flank is directly tied into his lovely left foot. Cutting inside, he is always looking to strike across the goalkeeper with his venomous left foot.
While that game against Germany was the only match in which Delfi had direct impacts on goal, the Iranian playmaker was always integral to his team.
His defensive effort was just as important as his attacking influence too, as Iran’s team defence in the group stages led to some of the best football of any team coming out of the group.
Reinforcing the importance of his role, Iran failed to ignite in their massive quarter-final clash with Spain after Delfi had picked up a suspension due to receiving two yellow cards.
The undoubted star of this team though, the talented playmaker seems to have a burgeoning career pathed out for him in Iran. He already has 13 senior appearances and a senior goal to his name, now it is time to establish himself globally. By Stephen Ganavas.
Country: Mali Club: ALOB; now clubless since February 2020
Djemoussa Traore was unknown to the crew at Scouted Football HQ before the tournament, but after his first three group stage games in which he bagged two goals and two assists, we were all on red alert.
The Malian’s effect waned over the knockout stages, meaning he could only be afforded a place on the substitutes bench in this squad, but he was nonetheless one of the most exciting players at the World Cup.
Mostly playing out on the left, Traore stretched the play with his direct running, willingness to sag wide and excellent dribbling prowess. A right-footed player though, he loves to also play off the last man and use his pace to get in-behind the defence and drift in from the left to score.
As part of an attacking quartet featuring Salam Jiddou, Lassana N’Diaye and Hadji Drame, Traore was often able to isolate his man out wide as his excellent team-mates drew their own attention. It was in these positions that Traore wowed fans with his technical quality.
He will now return to Mali, hoping to continue refining these skills. Alongside his compatriots, he needs to also be coached out of taking an awfully high number of long shot attempts. By Stephen Ganavas.
Country: Brazil Club: Vasco da Gama; now Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Paulinho managed to stand out in a team that was a delight to watch the entire tournament. Despite coming unstuck against England, the South American champions had some of the best individual talent on show and their right-winger was undoubtedly one of them. Scoring or assisting in each of Brazil’s games in India until the semi-final clash with the eventual champions, Paulinho was an absolute menace in the final-third.
He was even heavily involved in Wesley’s equaliser against England, a slick interchange on the edge of the box resulted in a fierce drive which Wesley reacted to quickest. This quick interchange and rasping drive was characteristic of Paulinho’s tournament and his style of play.
Only really involved on the ball when Brazil move into the most dangerous part of the pitch, he comes alive in and around the box. Whether with exceptional off the ball movement, slick passing sequences or flashed of individual brilliance, Paulinho is a constant threat to any team.
What makes him even more dangerous and exciting to watch is his ability to always find space. Blessed with gifted teammates that can find him, the value of Paulinho’s movement should not be overlooked.
Marcos Antonio indeed registered one of the assists of the tournament by picking out Paulinho against Spain—threading the ball between centre-back and full-back after a trademark sequence of events with saw the No.7 drift into the space before darting forward to receive the pass. Paulinho’s long-range winner against Germany in the quarter-final was the perfect metaphor for his entire tournament: explosive, decisive and above all else, spectacular. By Jake Entwistle.
Country: Spain Club: Real Madrid
Another gem in Real Madrid’s wealth of riches at youth level, Spain entrusted César with the most advanced midfield position for their Under-17 World Cup campaign and he did not disappoint. Racking up four assists as well as scoring two himself, César’s introduction to the team kickstarted Spain’s tournament.
A timid display against Brazil in the opening game led to a 2-1 defeat and the introduction of the Real Madrid man. Immediately in the games to follow his brilliant footwork and incredible vision was evident.
His ability on the ball transformed Spain into a team befitting of their tournament-favourite tag at the start. Given complete freedom to operate behind captain and chief goal-scorer Abel Ruiz, César offered everything you could want from an attacking midfielder. Rather than simply a creative force with his passing, it was his penetrative dribbling that caught the eye and caused the most problems. Without possessing a box of tricks per se, his intricate touches of the ball and deft movement of it made him a threat in any situation.
A fairly tall player, especially relative to his Spanish teammates, he was just as comfortable extending his stride to drive into space, brushing off defenders, as he was wriggling out of tight spaces and bamboozling them with his manipulation of the ball; his assist for Sergio Gomez’s second in the final the perfect example of it. Despite missing one game, the impact he had on his side when he was included in the starting XI beggars belief as to why he was ever considered surplus in the first place.
Nevertheless, when given his opportunity to shine, he did just that. Los Blancos have a very talented player on their hands. By Jake Entwistle.
Country: Germany Club: Hamburger SV; now Bayern München
Europe is blessed with some seriously talented centre-forwards at this level: Rhian Brewster, Abel Ruiz and Amine Gouiri all scored 5+ goals at the World Cup in India and 3+ at the European Under-17 Championship earlier this year. Fiete Arp is no exception. The German striker is perhaps the most complete striker of them all. He followed up his seven goals at the Under-17 European Championship with five more in India, as well as notching three assists.
Germany as a team were once again a disappointment relative to their customary success at every level of football, but their captain and No.9 can certainly once again hold his head up. Like all strikers in this tournament, the Hamburg forward was guilty of missing a few opportunities, but overall his finishing was exceptional and most impressively well-rounded.
Arp seems to possess the perfect finish for each unique situation. Whether passing it into the corner, dinking it over the goalkeeper or slamming it home with power, he is a Swiss-army knife forward in that he can do score from anywhere with any part of his body. His final goal against Colombia the best of them all. Tall, quick, strong, he has all the attributes to become a complete striker in a period where Germany have perhaps lacked an elite centre-forward.
Timo Werner has burst onto the scene to lay claim to that position, but if Fiete Arp continues scoring at the rate he is at youth level then there is no reason why he could not partner Werner in the future, or even force him wider to take the central role for himself. By Jake Entwistle.