With less than 100 days to go before the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 kicks off and the Official Draw, held in Mumbai overnight, has revealed the path to glory for the 24 participating nations.
Representing Oceania are OFC U-17 Champions New Zealand and runners-up and World Cup debutants New Caledonia.
New Zealand have been drawn into Group B where they will face Paraguay, Turkey and African champions Mali.
New Caledonia meanwhile will face a tough trio of Japan, Honduras and France in Group E
Michel Clarque, who led New Caledonia through qualifying before taking on the role of manager, was present at the draw and is looking forward to sharing the next step of the journey with the players back home.
“We have been living in a dream since February when we qualified,” he said.
“In our little nation of New Caledonia, to play a World Cup, it’s a wonderful thing, a dream. I want to share this dream with the players.
“When I get back home I will tell them that now; your final challenge is to do our best.”
Clarque believed the impressive debut of Vanuatu at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea has shown what small nations from Oceania are capable of.
“Like Vanuatu in the U-20 World Cup, a small country who did well against Mexico, Germany and Venezuela, if we can do as well as them, it will be great for Oceania as well.
“I’ve played for the national team of New Caledonia and I don’t know what it is like to play at a World Cup. I know that it’s a fantastic event, and I have to tell the kids that they will experience something amazing. Also, if they want good results, they will have to work and work.
“We want to do our best to develop these players. These U-17 will then become U-20.
“This is the beginning of their story. I hope for them that it will go on.”
The draw ceremony was held in the presence of Sunil Gulati, FIFA Council member, Praful Patel, President of the All India Football Federation and Vijay Goel, Indian Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports. Assisting in the draw ceremony were FIFA Legends Esteban Cambiasso and Nwankwo Kanu, as well as Indian national team legend Sunil Chhetri and Indian badminton star Pusarla Venkata Sindhu.
One of the highlights of the ceremony was the performance of the tournament’s Official Song. Pritam and Babul Supriyo revealed ‘Kar Ke Dikhla De Goal’ for the first time, much to the delight of the assembled audience.