U17 World Cup again proving successful for Africa in Brazil

Cameroon U17 team

Three of Africa's four teams have made it through to the next round at this year's Fifa Under-17 World Cup.

Nigeria, Senegal and Angola have all qualified for the knock-out stages with a game to spare.

The tournament has proved fertile ground with African countries winning the competition on seven occasions.

In Brazil, powerhouse Nigeria, who have won the competition a record five times, Cameroon and debutants Senegal and Angola are aiming for another global crown to underline the prowess of youth football on the continent.

"Africa represents greatness to me," Cameroon coach Thomas Libbih told BBC Sport. "We just lack a little in the development of youth football.

"The youths today are however changing the narrative and I think with the help of Caf, Uefa and Fifa - (who are) putting hands on deck - we are in for something big."

After disappointing defeats at the hands of Tajikistan and Argentina, Cameroon's hopes of progressing to the last sixteen no longer rest in their own hands however.

On Sunday, Libbih's side must beat Spain in their final game and hope other results go their way if they are reach the knock-out stages.

But Senegal have impressed the most in Brazil, registering comprehensive victories over the United States and European champions Netherlands during their maiden U17 World Cup participation.

"We are outsiders in this competition, we are novices who haven't had this experience yet of a major competition," maintains Senegal's coach Malick Daf.

"The African teams have progressed well at the high level. Look at Nigeria, the most decorated team at this age level. Angola and Senegal as debutants have won. That means the teams aren't in a slumber. They work, but with humility as well."

Even though Senegal have qualified for the knock-out phase in impressive fashion, Daf - an assistant coach for Senegal at the 2015 U-20 World Cup - says that working conditions back home are still challenging.

"It is always difficult, but we try our best to not make too many mistakes," explains Daf.

"Since a few years the federation has worked hard. There are two centres of development in Senegal - the Toubab Diakaw and Guereo - that allow us to work regularly and calmly.

"We have everything that we need, with international tournaments. We travel everywhere. The U-17 level has been progressing step by step. We are not yet at the top level."

Nigeria twice came from behind against Hungary and Ecuador, while Angola defeated both Canada and New Zealand with a 2-1 scoreline to ensure a spot in the next round, which leaves Cameroon as the only African country left with an uncertain fate in the group stages.

Libbih, a player at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups for the Teranga Lions, holds a less positive view of Africa's youth game than his Senegalese counterpart, but still relishes the tournament and the opportunity it could give his players ahead of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations on home soil.

"The ambition of the team is to play a good World Cup," says Libbih. "Since the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations, Steve Mvoue has been selected for the senior team. It is something fabulous. A lot of youngsters can have the chance to be selected higher up."

"In my opinion, Africa is good with youth football, but it's getting more complicated. Football politics spoil the game. People enter the game of football to look for money. It happens even in Europe, but there it is coordinated whereas in Africa it's alarming."

Top Stories