In addition to six debutants in the shape of England, Haiti, Honduras, Syria, Tajikistan and Togo, a string of seasoned campaigners at this level including the USA (who have played in all eleven FIFA U-17 World Cups), Brazil (ten), Argentina, Nigeria (eight each) and Ghana (seven) have also qualified. Meanwhile, Mexico surprisingly fell out of contention on the way to Korea. The Centarl Americans, who two years ago in Peru became the first CONCACAF representatives to win the world U-17 crown, were outgunned in the qualifying competition in Honduras by both the host nation and Haiti, who will be making their first appearance in the finals of a FIFA event since 1974.
The qualifiers underlined that Brazil once again have a very strong U-17 side. During the final round of South American qualifying in Ecuador, the three-time U-17 world champions (1997, 1999, 2003) and top-ranked team in U-17 World Cup history (51 matches, 33 wins, 9 draws, 9 defeats, 110 goals for, 40 goals against) dominated their continental rivals. Only runners-up Colombia managed to take a point off the Brazilians in a hard-fought 0-0 draw. Five-time world champions at U-20 level Argentina will be seeking a first ever U-17 world crown having finished third in the qualifiers, while Peru secured the fourth and final CONMEBOL berth in the finals in the Far East.
In Reimond Manco, the Peruvians boasted the star player of the South American qualifiers. The quick and enterprising striker scored three goals and delighted the fans as well as talent scouts from several clubs. Having already made his debut in the Peruvian top flight for Alianza Lima and appeared for Peru’s U-20 team, he is rumoured to be on the shopping lists of River Plate, Boca Juniors, PSV Eindhoven and Real Madrid.
The tournament’s most deadly marksman was nevertheless a Brazilian. Lula topped the list with twelve goals; well ahead of his strike partner Fabio with seven. With 29 goals in total, Brazil were the event’s most prolific scores by far.