The FIFA Under-17 World Cup has long since been a proving ground for the stars of tomorrow, and this year’s tournament – which gets underway in the United Arab Emirates next week – will feature three young Chelsea academy players.
The tournament’s official squad lists have confirmed that Swedish pair Isak Ssewankambo and Ali Suljic are a part of the Blågult squad, whilst Habib Makanjuola will represent Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets.
Ssewankambo is the most familiar name to Blues fans, having become a regular in Dermot Drummy’s Under-21 team so far this season and playing extremely well at right-back. However, he will return to his favoured midfield role for his country and doubtless be as influential a figure as he was at the summer’s UEFA Under-17 European Championships, when he was named one of the players of the tournament as Sweden made the Semi Finals. He picked up an injury last Sunday at home to Manchester City but will hopefully be fit to play.
Compatriot Suljic currently plays for Chelsea’s Under-16s, missing out on being a scholar for Adi Viveash’s Under-18 team by a few weeks. Signed from IF Motala last season, he can play at centre-back or at right-back and was also a part of the European Championship squad back in May. The tournament’s official squad list does not name him as a Chelsea player yet as assorted paperwork is still to be completed.
Makanjuola, meanwhile, joined up with the Blues in his early teens after winning a national competition in Nigeria for ball skills. A versatile midfielder, he will be one of the youngest players in the entire competition – one of only two 1999 born players in the Golden Eaglets’ squad – but having been given the number seven shirt, much will be expected of him as one of only two players based outside of the country.
The draw has paired both teams together in Group F along with Mexico and Iraq, meaning a potential head-to-head at the Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium on October 22nd.