2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup: Team of the Group Stage

After yet another entertaining youth tournament group stage, we've put our heads together and created a squad of the best and most impressive players from this year's Under-17 World Cup.

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With the likes of Brazil, France, Spain and England dominating their opposition we have looked beyond overall team performance and tried to focus on individual contribution to the team, as well as rewarding those that have caught out eye despite their own side's potential pitfalls.

Plenty of goals were scored and almost every game was an exciting contest to watch, making the choices even more difficult.

But we have stuck our neck out and picked 18 players who made Scouted Football take notice and given you a relatively detailed look at what they bring to their side.

Here they are:

GOALKEEPER

Ricardo Montenegro

AGE: 17 (09/07/2000)
COUNTRY: Costa Rica
CLUB: Deportivo Saprissa

Montenegro.jpg

Ricardo Montenegro carved himself a place in our starting XI due to the sheer amount of saves he was forced to make. Costa Rica may have finished bottom of their group with one solitary point, but if not for their goalkeeper it could have been far worse.

An acrobatic and agile goalkeeper, Montenegro became frustrating to beat because of his ability to suffocate onrushing attackers. He made more saves (22) than any other goalkeeper in the group stages, the bulk of which came in a heroic display against Guinea.

Quick off his line and assertive in his decision making, he reduced the amount of time the floods of attackers that bore down on goal had to make a decision but was often let down by the hot-tempered and over zealous defending in front of him.

Ricardo Montenegro did everything he could to earn points for Costa Rica, unfortunately the rest of the side could not match his effort.

Written by Jake Entwistle (@JakeEntwistle)

RIGHT-BACK

Jesús Rolón

AGE: 17 (04/07/2000)
COUNTRY: Paraguay
CLUB: Olimpia

Rolon.jpg

Despite Paraguay having the leakiest defence amongst teams that finished the group stage with a perfect record, Jesús Rolón stood out at right-back as a creative force more than a solid defender.

Caught out by the pace of Mali in the opening game at times, Rolón matured throughout the three group games. His willingness to maraud down the right flank was a constant feature of Paraguay’s attack.

Furthermore, his inside runs to flood the midfield helped to create space wide for the roaming Alan Rodriguez. His command of the ball and short passing ability helped to make him extremely effective in this role.

Undoubtedly a player to watch in a position that has become so important to the best teams of the modern era (see Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City circa 2017), Rolón’s skillset holds him in good stead for the future if he can tighten up his positioning against pacy attacks.

Written by Stephen Ganavas (@StephenScouted)

CENTRE-BACK

Joel Latibeaudiere

AGE: 17 (06/01/2000)
COUNTRY: England
CLUB: Manchester City

One of the few England players to play every minute of the three group stage games, Joel Latibeaudiere was a calming and assertive presence throughout.

An extremely athletic player, the Manchester City centre-back’s standout quality is his jumping ability. Almost impossible to challenge aerially, he matched a dominant presence in the air with an equally composed touch on the ground.

With England dominating the majority of their three group stage games, his defensive skillset was not called upon too often, with his composure on the ball and positional play in the spotlight the most. Despite a period of panic against Mexico from the entire England team, Latibeaudiere dealt with all other attacks in a commanding fashion.

The knockout stages will pit England against more potent opposition and the Manchester City centre-back will play a pivotal role in dealing with it.

Written by Jake Entwistle (@JakeEntwistle)

CENTRE-BACK

James Sands

AGE: 17 (06/07/2000)
COUNTRY: United States of America
CLUB: NYCFC

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If not for Josh Sargent, James Sands would arguably be the USA’s captain given his leadership by example and never-say-die attitude.

As versatile as they come, Sands’ role as a defensive midfielder at NYCFC has proven vital to his success as the USA’s starting centre-back. With the intelligence of a midfielder, the centre-back effortlessly negated Ghana’s lethal counter attacks without flaw. At the same time, his expansive passing range allowed for his side to spread a stubborn Indian defence and cruise to a 3-0 victory.

Interestingly enough, Sands is one of the best defenders at this tournament despite playing for a defensively fragile side. With their fullbacks set high up the field and Chris Goslin playing unusually poor to start the tournament, much of the defensive slack is picked up by the NYCFC man. Despite being physically bested by Colombia’s forwards, Sands single-handedly shut down Juan Peñaloza's dominance over Sergino Dest.

Looking forward, Sands will have his hands full if his teammates continue to provide inconsistent defensive support. With Germany waiting in the Quarter-Finals, make sure to keep a close eye on the battle between James Sands and Jann-Fiete Arp.

Written by Justin Sousa (@Sousa7474)

LEFT-BACK

Juan Miranda

AGE: 17 (19/01/2000)
COUNTRY: Spain
CLUB: Barcelona

 (Pictured left)

(Pictured left)

If the European Under-17 Championship was Mateu Morey’s moment to shine, then the World Cup has seen a shift from one full-back to another; from right to left.

Juan Miranda was as much as an attacking force as he was a reliable defensive asset for Spain. Constant overlapping on the left flank gave the freedom and space for his creative midfielders to operate, and when given the ball in an attacking position, Miranda was able to carve out opportunities on his own—recording an assist during Spain’s demolition of Niger.

Although taller than his partner in crime on the opposite flank, Spain’s left-back is the mirror image in approach and style of play of Mateur Morey, making them a fluid and overwhelming attacking force when working in tandem.

Miranda will continue to play a key role in all parts of the pitch during the knockout stages, and it is fair to expect at least one more assist from his waves of dangerous crossing.

Written by Jake Entwistle (@JakeEntwistle)

CENTRE-MIDFIELD

Marcos Antonio

AGE: 17 (13/06/2000)
COUNTRY: Brazil
CLUB: Atletico Paranense

Antonio.jpg

It is difficult not to get excited about Marcos Antonio. Small in stature, but not lacking impact nor influence, the Brazilian midfielder was almost an ever-present in his country’s victorious U-17 South American Championship win earlier this year, and has continued his strong form at the U-17 World Cup.

Tasked with the ever-difficult box-to-box role, especially in the sapping Indian conditions that have seen many players succumb to second-half cramp, Antonio excelled in bringing control and balance to Brazil’s midfield.

Antonio stood out with his magnificent passing range that allowed Brazil to crush the likes of Niger and North Korea while operating at almost walking pace. Against North Korea, he completed 118 passes in a role that also saw him push up the right flank to influence the attack. While he was not able to affect the scoresheet, his creative influence on team was clear as he sprayed balls left and right allowing his team-mates to advance into dangerous positions to cross. His assist for Paulino against Spain was arguably the best of the entire Group Stage.

The Brazilian midfielder is also gifted with a magnificent engine that allows him to play a variety of roles across the midfield. He seems capable of being a midfield controller while also having the ability to push forward with the energy of a typical box-to-box midfielder.

He could perhaps be more responsible from a positional standpoint, but it is likely that with effort levels hovering around the 5% mark in the games against Niger and North Korea, that Antonio is just waiting to lift for the knockouts.

Written by Stephen Ganavas (@StephenScouted)

CENTRE-MIDFIELD

Yacine Adli

AGE: 17 (29/07/2000)
COUNTRY: France
CLUB: Paris Saint-Germain

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Yacine Adli is starting to develop a reputation at Scouted Football HQ as the next Adrien Rabiot. While we are not normally ones for comparisons, from hair, to nationality, to club, to style of play, Adli and his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate are undoubtedly alike.

Playing in a slightly different role in this France team with a lot of work to do on the right, Adli’s creativity was on display for the world to see.

The Frenchman was unplayable in his nation’s 7-1 destruction of New Caledonia in their opening game, in which Adli notched three assists. He eventually finished the group stage with five assists – the next best players at the tournament had two.

Adli is a silky-smooth midfielder that does everything with an astonishing fluidity; whether it be passing, dribbling, or simply moving. Like Rabiot, he is efficient and refuses to give the ball away needlessly. However, he does not play safe either.

With a huge match-up against Spain to come in the knockout rounds, Adli’s maturity and solidity in midfield will be key in both nullifying Spain’s midfield and fuelling his own country’s attack.

Written by Stephen Ganavas (@StephenScouted)

CENTRE-MIDFIELD

Younes Delfi

AGE: 17 (02/10/2000)
COUNTRY: Iran
CLUB: Esteghlal

Delfi.jpg

While it seems a slight stretch to say Younes Delfi was a centre-midfielder at this tournament, for the purposes of formation we will turn his attacking midfield role into a central midfield role. In saying this, let it not detract from the brilliant three matches Delfi had in qualifying Iran at the top of a group containing Germany, Costa Rica and Guinea with a 100% record.

Of note was the Iranian’s impeccable performance against Germany, undoubtedly one of the top individual displays of the group stage. In 60 minutes of game time, Delfi pressed the life out of the German defence. He capitalised on the many mistakes it created to score twice and assist one in a game that the German central defensive partnership will have nightmares about for the rest of their careers.

On top of his willing defensive contributions, Delfi impressed with his tight dribbling control, awareness and sense of timing to arrive in the box at the right moment. He won two penalties against Costa Rica with some excellent movement when he drifted towards the right, which he did regularly throughout the three group games.

Delfi is the focal point of Iran’s attack from deep, and his telepathic partnership with the clinical Allahyar Sayyad will be crucial to Iran’s prospects of making a deep run at this tournament.

Written by Stephen Ganavas (@StephenScouted)

RIGHT-WING

Paulinho

AGE: 17 (15/07/2000)
COUNTRY: Brazil
CLUB: Vasco da Gama

Paulinho.jpg

Famed for being the first player born in the year 2000 to score in Brazil’s Serie A, Paulinho entered the tournament with plenty of eyes on him. Under close scrutiny, he has performed.

Paulinho finished the group stages with 2 goals and 1 assist. Either scoring or assisting once in each game, including the match-winner against fellow favourites Spain, his output becomes even more impressive when considering Brazil scored two in each of their three matches. Rather than a product of a gluttony of goals, Paulinho’s contribution was decisive.

An extremely versatile player—playing at full-back or centre-forward on occasion—Paulinho found a home on the right side of Brazil’s front three during the tournament and has played his role to perfection thus far. Always drifting inside from the touchline, his off-the-ball movement is sensational, finding himself in pockets of space and goalscoring positions on nearly every occasion.

His synergy with centre-forward Lincoln is a feature of Brazil’s comfortable group stage, and even when raise the intensity and quality in the knockout rounds, Paulinho will be a fundamental part of their attack.

Written by Jake Entwistle (@JakeEntwistle)

LEFT-WING

Jadon Sancho

AGE: 17 (25/03/2000)
COUNTRY: England
CLUB: Borussia Dortmund

Sancho.jpg

Jadon Sancho played in every game for England and stood out in all of them. The Young Lions’ No11 was billed as the star man before the tournament due to his excellent U17 European Championships and he continued his sparkling form.

Sancho’s flair and dribbling ability was a constant threat to every opposition, tormenting defenders with step-overs and body feints that were used for a purpose: creating scoring opportunities for himself or his teammates. Sancho finished the group stages with 3 goals and 2 assists to his name; the largest contribution of any England player.

Despite missing a penalty in the final game against Iraq, his link-up and decision making in the final third in open play was near-perfect. He should be forgiven for the occasional over-indulgence of trickery on the ball as he was clearly a class above his opponents in Group F.

Recalled by his parent club to take part in the UEFA Youth League, despite England’s strength in depth, there is no doubt Jadon Sancho’s absence will still be massively felt.

Written by Jake Entwistle (@JakeEntwistle)

CENTRE-FORWARD

Mohammed Dawood

AGE: 16 (22/11/2000)
COUNTRY: Iraq
CLUB: Al-Naft

Dawood.jpg

The undoubted star of the 2016 U-16 Asian Championship has continued to dominate at this level throughout Iraq’s group stage campaign at the U-17 World Cup.

Tasked with carrying a team that rarely poses an attacking threat and relies on organisation and defensive solidity, Dawood has been a breath of fresh air whenever he has been afforded the opportunity to latch onto the ball in the attacking third.

His three goals at the tournament characterised his versatile skillset that would suit multiple roles against multiple opponents.

The first, against Mexico, was a lovely run off the shoulder of the last man which then saw Dawood round the goalkeeper and finish into an empty net. It highlighted his speed, composure and dribbling ability. The second, against Chile, displayed the Iraqi striker’s persistence after he scuffed a shot, won the ball back off a defender and slammed home at the near post. The third, also against Chile, was a demonstration of technique as the 16-year-old curled home an expertly struck free-kick into the far corner.

Iraq are an unspectacular team, but there is nothing unspectacular about their centre-forward. Mohammed Dawood is their only hope of progression at this tournament.

Written by Stephen Ganavas (@StephenScouted)

SUBSTITUTES

GOALKEEPER

Dheeraj Moirangthem

AGE: 17 (04/07/2000)
COUNTRY: India
CLUB: AIFF Elite Academy

Dheeraj.jpg

After having the pleasure of watching this exceptionally talented goalkeeper in action, it comes as no surprise to know that football followers in India have dubbed Dheeraj as the “Indian Neuer.”

From the superb runs off his line to the swagger with which he plays with, everything about Dheeraj’s game screams German goalkeeper. Dheeraj possesses an uncanny sense of awareness to how his opposition are attacking, allowing him to make well-timed runs off his goal line or produce a show-stopping save from point blank range.

Against the USA, Dheeraj denied Andrew Carleton one-on-one on two separate occasions, producing a two highlight reel-worthy diving saves to deny the American. At just 17-years old, Dheeraj has already shown he possesses nerves of steel in situations of intense pressure.

India’s goalkeeping wonder received praise ranging from tweets from ex-England goalkeeper David James to a standing ovation from a crowd of over 46,000 people in New Dehli. Arguably find of the tournament, do not be surprised if European scouts return back to their clubs with Dheeraj at the top of their priority lists. If anyone from this Indian side deserves a shot at playing abroad after this tournament, Dheeraj Moirangthem is the man best fit for the honour. 

Written by Justin Sousa (@Sousa7474)

LEFT-BACK

Weverson

AGE: 17 (05/07/2000)
NATION: Brazil
CLUB: São Paulo

 (Pictured right)

(Pictured right)

Weverson is a machine rampaging down Brazil’s left side. Unfortunate to miss out on a starting spot in our XI, the Brazilian earns his place on the bench after a string of defensively excellent displays that saw Brazil concede just once throughout the three group games.

Given license to burst forward, Weverson is thoughtful in making the decision to exercise this license and positions himself accordingly. His positional awareness is one of his best attributes that is underpinned by his speed moving up and down the left side.

At 1.85m tall, he is a physically imposing left-back too – especially at this level. It means he is willing to go body to body with opposition wingers, knowing he often has an advantage in these situations, and he has the speed and creative qualities to then punish them the other way. He is brilliant in the way he is able to formulate overloads out wide.

Weverson's consistent displays bode well for Brazil as they head into the knockout rounds.

Written by Stephen Ganavas (@StephenScouted)

CENTRE-MIDFIELD/CENTRE-BACK

CHRIS DURKIN

AGE: 17 (08/02/2000)
COUNTRY: United States of America
CLUB: Richmond Kickers

Durkin.jpg

While many expected Josh Sargent or Andrew Carleton to star for the USA, it is an unlikely hero in Chris Durkin who has risen to the occasion for his nation.

Not many have shown the same work ethic as the Virginia-native at this tournament, and it is because of this quality that he has earned a spot on the bench. He had a standout performance against Ghana, setting up the match’s only goal by robbing his opponent of the ball and quickly initiating the counter attack that lead to Ayo Akinola’s goal.

Durkin has been a revelation for his side when transitioning from defenCe to offence, playing with his head on swivel to find the next pass.

The USA will hope Durkin’s form continues into the knockout stages as they face faster, stronger, and more skilful opposition. A player with his skillset could prove to be the difference maker in a match where they just need to grind out a win.

Written by Justin Sousa (@Sousa7474)

RIGHT WINGER

JUAN PEÑALOZA

AGE: 17 (03/05/2000)
COUNTRY: Colombia
CLUB: Estudiantes de La Plata

Penaloza.jpg

Colombia sputtered with an initial loss to Ghana in their opening match, but Juan Penaloza’s introduction to the front line provided a whole new dimension of attack. His jaw-dropping pace and agility combined with a natural South American flair made an initially mediocre Colombian side much more enjoyable to watch for 90 minutes.

Penaloza was the catalyst to Colombia’s push for an automatic qualification spot into the Round of 16, providing three goals and one assist in their last two group stage matches. The Colombian winger tore apart the seemingly sound USA defense in their last match, terrorizing Sergino Dest in the opening minutes with stepovers and flawless stop-starts down the wing.

Along with his clinical touch, Penaloza also provided Colombia’s forward line with accurate service from the wings and stretched opposition back lines to open space for his teammates to make runs into.

While there is an odd lack of quality players given Colombia’s performance at the U17 World Cup, Penaloza might be the name to stick in a few scouts’ heads. Big clubs may want to snatch up the Colombian’s services before he can rack up a Vinicius Jr. sized price tag.

Written by Justin Sousa (@Sousa7474)

RIGHT-WING/CENTRE-MIDFIELD

Phil Foden

AGE: 17 (28/05/2000)
COUNTRY: England
CLUB: Manchester City

Foden.jpg

Brilliant U17 European Championship, check. Brilliant pre-season with Manchester City’s first team, check. Brilliant start to the U17 World Cup, check. Phil Foden is a wonderful talent.

With just one goal to his name, it’s easy to overlook Phil Foden’s contribution to England’s dominant group stage. However, after watching him play it becomes difficult not to overhype it. Operation from a wide-right position on paper, Foden was found mostly in the half-space, constantly turning defenders and gliding away from them with graceful ease.

His place on the bench is reflective of the genuine quality on show at this tournament and maybe the fact he could possibly have done even more. Despite some poor finishing, the one effort that did find the net is a candidate for goal of the tournament; ghosting in from his flank to divert Jadon Sancho’s pass into the corner.

Foden will continue to be a menace with his delicate touches and trademark flicks in and around the box. With Jadon Sancho departing, he may need to find a goalscoring touch to consolidate his near-perfect displays.

Written by Jake Entwistle (@JakeEntwistle)

RIGHT-WING

Djemoussa Traoré

AGE: 17 (20/01/2000)
COUNTRY: Mali
CLUB: ALOB

Djemoussa.jpg

Djemoussa Traoré descended from nowhere to play a vital role in Mali’s brilliant group stage campaign.
 
His two goals and two assists highlighted his direct approach to wide play, be it on the right or left. He is able to operate on the left or right, fine tuning his approach to adapt to each side. When on the left, he stretches the play, aiming to latch onto through balls before making a decisive pass or shot in the area. Should he swap to the right, he tucks in and works in tandem with Mali’s impressive right-back Fode Konaté, allowing him to burst pass and exchange one-twos to bypass the opposition.
 
He is also deceptively strong technically too, with some wonderful moves drifting inside from the left leading to one of his goals, and general dangerous play for Mali.
 
Traoré’s link-up with Hadji Drame will be key to Mali’s hopes of another African success at the U-17 World Cup.

Written by Stephen Ganavas (@StephenScouted)

CENTRE-FORWARD

Amine Gouiri

AGE: 17 (16/02/2000)
COUNTRY: France
CLUB: Lyon

Gouiri.jpg

Prolific at the European U17 Championships in the summer, Amine Gouiri is making a claim to be one of the deadliest strikers at this level.

With the excellent movement and ruthless finishing to strike fear into any defence, perennial goalscoring rivals Abel Ruiz and Jann-Fiete Arp will be sick of the sight of Amine Gouiri at this level. The reason France’s No9 does not find himself in our starting XI is because despite his goalscoring exploits, it is what was expected.

France sailed through to the knockout rounds scoring more goals (14) than any other side and Amine Gouiri’s title as the individual top group stage scorer—five goals— is more of a reflection on New Caledonia and Honduras. After all, he scored seven in this summer’s U17 Euros group stage, so if anything, he underperformed...

Joking aside, his pure finishing ability and output means he once again is in the race for the Golden Boot and if he can continue to score at the same rate against more challenging opposition then he will be a (Golden) shoe in for the Team of the Tournament.

Written by Jake Entwistle (@JakeEntwistle)

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HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Fandje Toure, Takefusa Kubo, Víctor Chust, Issaiaga Camara, Alan Rodriguez, Diego Lainez, George McEachran, Antonio Blanco, Alanzinho, Maxime Caqueret, Fode Konate, Cesar Gelabert, Lincoln

With the knockout stages already underway, there is no let up in the outstanding performances and thrilling matches served up by one of the best tournaments in football.

Make a note of these players, keep an eye out for others. Just don't miss any more of it.

Follow @ScoutedFtbl for everything U17 World Cup related and youth football.