Tajikistan will be competing in its first-ever World Cup at any level, as one of four teams to qualify from Asia. The Tajiks, who have a full-time residency program, beat Iraq (1-0), Iran (2-1) and Yemen (4-3) to advance into the quarterfinals, where it beat South Korea, 1-0, to book a trip to the World Cup.
Belgium, which lost to eventual champion Spain on penalty kicks in the semifinals of the recent European U-17 championships, qualified for the U-17 World Cup for the first time. Tunisia is the lone U.S. opponent with experience at the U-17 finals, having competed in 1993.
"On paper, it's a very favorable draw for us, however, in my experience at the Under-17 World Cup you never know really what's going to happen because at this age level things are definitely a little unpredictable," said U.S. U-17 coach John Hackworth. "We know very little about Tajikistan and Tunisia, so that is going to be a huge challenge for us. We do know a little about Belgium, but we have some work to do to get prepared for all of our teams in Group E. It will be very interesting come this August when we kick off the World Cup."
(Click here to listen to Hackworth's analysis of the Under-17 World Cup draw.)
The draw pitted South American powerhouses Argentina and Brazil against Spain and England, the No. 1 and No. 2 European teams, respectively. Spain will enter with the tournament's most heralded player, Barcelona starlet Bojan Krkic.
UNDER-17 WORLD CUP DRAW:
A1. South Korea
A3. Costa Rica
B1. North Korea
B4. New Zealand
F3. Trinidad & Tobago