Hosts India have been clubbed with USA, Morocco and Brazil in Group A of the Fifa U17 Women’s World Cup, the official draw for which was held at the governing body’s headquarters in Zurich on Friday.

India begin their campaign on the opening day against USA on October 11, followed by matches against Morocco and Brazil on October 14, and October 17, 2022 respectively. All of India’s matches in the group stage kick-off at IST 8pm at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. The tournament will be held from October 11-30, 2022.

Moments after the draw, head coach Thomas Dennerby said, “It’s a very exciting group for us. Playing against the USA and Brazil will be extremely tough as they are among the best teams in the world. Even Morocco are a very strong team from Africa. It’s a tough group, but we have to be prepared and hope to give a good fight in every game. But we also have three and a half months to prepare. So we need to work very hard every day in our training sessions.”

Following the conclusion of the group games on 18 October, the top two teams from each group will progress to the quarterfinals. Navi Mumbai will kick off the double header knockouts on 21 October where winners of Group A will face the runner-up of Group B and following soon, the winners of Group B will take on the second-placed team from Group A.

The other set of quarterfinal games will take place on the next day with the first and second placed teams of Groups C and D competing against each other to earn the right to remain in Goa for the semi-finals on 26th October.

All four teams will subsequently head to Navi Mumbai to compete in the third-place match and the showpiece final to wrap up India’s first-ever Fifa women’s competition on 30 October.

“When you are playing in a World Cup, you need to aim to take points and qualify for the quarterfinals,” he added. “If we can manage that, it will be sensational.”

Germany was drawn into Group B with Nigeria, Chile and hosts of the inaugural edition of the tournament, New Zealand.

Meanwhile, defending champion Spain have been drawn in Group C along with Colombia, Mexico and China PR. Former champion – of the Costa Rica 2014 edition – Japan is placed alongside in Group D alongside Tanzania, Canada and another former champion in France.

“Today’s draw not only marks an important milestone for India as a host nation but also for the global football community. That this draw and the subsequently tournament is able to take place safely is a testament to the hard work of those involved,” Fifa President Gianni Infantino said during the draw.

“We now look forward to watching the finest young players representing 16 nations from around the world in India later this year. As a direct result of this tournament, a new generation of women inspired to follow in the footsteps of those they see playing in October will be created.”

Anurag Thakur, Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting and Youth Affairs & Sports, said, “It is a matter of extreme pride and responsibility for our nation to host her first-ever FIFA women’s tournament – the Fifa U-17 Women’s World Cup. The official draw is a major milestone for all involved as the 16 participating nations now know who they play.”

(With AIFF inputs)