The FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 has reached the quarter-final stage, with the first set of last-eight matches taking place on Saturday.
The early kick-off in Guwahati sees two West African rivals meet, as Mali and Ghana will determine who will be the last team left standing from their continent in the semi-finals. The contest is also a repeat of this year’s CAF U-17 Africa Cup of Nations final in Gabon, where Les Aiglonnets successfully defended their title with a 1-0 win over the Black Starlets, thanks to Mamadou Samake’s first-half strike.
The second match sees USA take on England in an intriguing clash in Goa. The Stars and Stripes reached the last eight in impressive form after seeing off Paraguay in New Delhi, while England needed a penalty shoot-out to get past Japan in Kolkata to reach this stage.
What you need to know
1. A first time for everything. Saturday’s two quarter-finals will both be the first time these teams have met each other in a U-17 World Cup. Though Mali and Ghana met earlier this year, they have not contested a match against each other in the world finals at this level. The same goes for USA’s meeting with England. Both nations have battled in a FIFA World Cup™ on two occasions (1950 & 2010) and twice in the FIFA U-20 World Cup (1993 & 1999).
2. Same achievement, different level. By reaching the last eight at India 2017, both England and USA accomplished the feat of making this stage in both the U-17 and U-20 World Cup competitions in the same year, as the pair also appeared in the quarter-finals of Korea Republic 2017. Since 1985, the achievement of one country making the last eight in both tournaments in the same year has occurred 45 times.
3. Free-scoring Eaglets. As quarter-finalists, Mali have found the net with regularity, especially in their last three matches. Scoring three goals or better in those games, the African champions could overtake already-eliminated France at the top of the tournament scoring charts, sitting just two goals behind Les Bleuets in second. Lassana N’Diaye can also move ahead of France’s Amine Gouiri in the individual scoring chart, should he find the net again at India 2017. Both players lead the list with five goals each. The West Africans are also the only team to have so far reached triple digits in shot attempts this tournament (107).
4. Solid at the back. If one team is potentially capable of halting Mali’s goalscoring proficiency, it could be Ghana. Their three victories at this competition have resulted in clean sheets for the Black Starlets and their goalkeeper Danlad Ibrahim. Their only blemish was a 1-0 defeat by USA in the group stage. Impressive as those stats are, Ghana know their defensive rearguard is in for a severe test from their West African neighbours on Saturday.
3 - the number of assists that USA midfielder Andrew Carleton has registered in the tournament to date. The Atlanta United youngster proved highly influential in USA’s 5-0 win over Paraguay in the Round of 16, scoring a goal and having a hand in three of the other four goals the Stars and Stripes scored on Monday.