Burkina Faso have participated in three past FIFA U-17 World Cups and finished third at the tournament in Trinidad and Tobago in 2001. They debuted at the 1999 event and just two years ago were one of Africa’s five representatives at the finals in Nigeria. But it was in Trinidad and Tobago that the junior Stallions achieved their best performance by reaching the semi-finals. They had finished behind Argentina in their opening round group but beat the heavy-fancied South American champions 2-0 for the bronze medal. A canny 3-5-2 formation earned much respect for Jacques Yameogo's side who also registered a surprise 1-0 win over Spain. Two years earlier Burkina Faso had won their opening game but then bowed out by finishing third in their group at the tournament in New Zealand. In 2009, Burkina Faso reached the first knockout round, bowing out 4-1 to Spain.
It will be the first time that the Burkinabe go to the FIFA U-17 World Cup as continental champions, having produced a gritty performance to emerge top of the pile at the African championships in Rwanda in January. They had begun the tournament with defeat to the hosts in the opening game but beat the same team in a dramatic final two weeks later. Burkina Faso scored seven goals in their last two group games against Senegal and Egypt to ensure top place in the group and with it qualification to the upcoming tournament in Mexico. A penalty shootout win over Congo in the semi-final and then the final win over Rwanda served as a major boost to their momentum.
A Portuguese coaching influence, drawing from their past experience and success at youth level in FIFA tournaments, is serving Burkina Faso’s cause. Rui Veiria was brought in by compatriot Paolo Duarte, who is the senior team coach, and has delivered success within a year of his appointment. A strategy for pre-Mexico preparations is still to be announced but a first-ever continental title has been greeted with great joy in Ouagadougou and government assistance for their preparations is likely to see the Burkinabe enjoy plenty of opportunity to hone their talents before heading to the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
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