Micah Joe’s u17 World Cup Betting Preview
The 18th edition of the under-17 World Cup is set to begin on Saturday, October 26.Three different cities in Brazil will host matches at four venues. These youth tournaments are very exciting and have catapulted the careers of many of the current superstars of soccer. The 24 teams that qualified have been drawn into six groups. The knockout round will feature the top two teams in each group as well as the top four third place teams for a total of sixteen teams.
The past events have been dominated by three confederations. Europe, Africa and South America have put a combined 54 teams in the semis, while the other three have produced 10 total. The big three have also been crowned champion 15 times. Each confederation not only gets a different amount of teams in the tournament, but they have a slightly different process to determine the participants. We’ll start with the most dangerous confederations first.
Africa has dominated with seven champions. Nigeria (5-time champs) struggled through qualifying with a +2 goal differential, then lost in the semis to Guinea on penalty kicks. This isn’t the best Nigeria team we’ve seen and could be a good fade as favorites. Angola is debuting in the event and arrived first in Brazil to get acclimated, but they could be overwhelmed in the spotlight. Cameroon was the surprising winner of the Cup of Nations which secured their first appearance in 16 years. The Lions play a very defensive, boring style that frustrates opponents. In five matches they outscored opponents a total of 4-1 in regulation. Expect more mundane but successful soccer from Cameroon. Senegal did not qualify but backed in when Guinea was disqualified. This was detrimental as some of their better players already had commitments with their club teams and won’t be in Brazil.
Europe has the most intense qualifying process. Over 50 teams fight for just five spots. UEFA has produced the most semifinalists of any confederation. The Netherlands were crowned champions for the second year in a row as they cruised through the knockout round with an impressive scoreline of 8-2. However, leading scorer Brian Brobbey is injured and did not make the trip. France looked dangerous in handing the Netherlands its only defeat during group play, 2-0. After crushing the Czechs 6-1 in the quarterfinals, the Blues bowed out in the semis, giving up a lead in a loss to Italy. The Italians won their group 10-3 combined, then made its way to the finals before losing. The Azures had to survive a gauntlet to get there beating world powers Spain, Germany, Portugal and France. Of all 24 teams, they have the most impressive resume of wins by far. Spain’s youth teams have traditionally been high-scoring over machines, but this version has struggled to score and defend. Hungary rounds out the Europeans as they beat Belgium in a very lucky fashion on penalty kicks to advance in the fifth-place match.
South America is hosting the event, which is a distinct advantage, yet only Mexico in 2011 has been crowned champions on their home continent. The Brazilians are three-time champs but struggled through qualifying, not even making it to the Final Stage. Their best player, Kaio Jorge, didn’t play in the event. Brazil didn’t have to win as they already qualified as hosts. Expect more going forward from the Selecao. This confederation determines its teams from a round robin rather than Knockout Stage. Argentina blasted the other qualifiers Chile, Brazil and Paraguay a combined 8-0 to secure its place. Maybe we can excuse the debacle to close out the stage with a crushing 4-1 defeat to Ecuador, the benefactor of a possibly distracted Argentina. Ecuador did not otherwise look threatening at all. Paraguay plays an exciting brand of soccer and we’ll expect lots of goals in its matches.
CONCACAF is the North American confederation that has been dominated by Mexico (2-time champs). In winning all seven matches they rolled up a 21-3 scoreline. El Tri are always a menace in this event. The United States followed the all too familiar script of dominating every other team until bowing to Mexico in the final. The American squads have only produced one semifinalist in sixteen tries. This team doesn’t look to buck that trend. Canada was really fortunate to beat a better Costa Rica team in the quarters on penalty kicks. Haiti has a highly-regarded goalkeeper that plays in Portugal and it will try to slow games down and win ugly. No one besides Mexico looks perilous to the other squads.
Asia hasn’t produced a semifinalist since 1995. Japan ran through its six matches 11-4, winning them all. The Samarai Blues senior teams are known for being organized, balanced and cerebral. They always make good dogs in these events. Tajikistan will be very defensive-minded, sitting back and waiting for opponents to make a mistake and then counter-attack. Another team that will try to win ugly. Australia has struggled to qualify since moving into the Asian confederation. The Joeys struggled to get past Indonesia to qualify. Their competition only increases from here. South Korea crushed in the group stage 12-0, including a 3-0 smashing of Australia. Against India and Tajikistan they struggled to score and lost in the semis. But in five matches they only gave up 1 goal. Yet another team that will benefit from unsightly matches,and they thrive in those spots.
Oceanic inexplicably get two teams to qualify. Australia (now in the Asian confederation) made the semis in 1995. That’s their biggest success. Now, it’s always New Zealand and an also-ran that qualifies and the Kiwis have lost 18 of their 27 matches since 2007. In 2017, New Caledonia lost all three matches a combined 2-13. This year’s also-ran was the host Solomon Islands, who destroyed New Zealand 5-0 in the group stage, only to lose a 0-0 draw on penalty kicks to New Zealand. Not much is expected from these two, except to be among the eight who fail to make the Knockout Stage.
Micah Joe specializes in these one-off youth soccer tournaments. He has a unique approach of handicapping these events, combining current form with historical data along with watching every match. Micah is 56-28 (66.7%, +14.3 units) this year on youth soccer events. A 30 day Soccer subscription will get you every play of the U17 World Cup.