Ismail Bouneb’s late strike earned France a hard-fought victory over Uzbekistan and a place in the FIFA U-17 World Cup semifinals.
Jean-Luc Vannuchi’s team, which has yet to concede a goal at the tournament, was far from its fluent best but edged through to keep its hopes alive of a first U-17 global crown since 2001.
“The game was complicated, very complicated. We used our good mentality and our fighting spirit, we kept playing, we worked altogether on the pitch and the result was that goal. We are gonna play a semifinal and we will prepare with determination, altogether once again, and with a good state of min,” Bouneb said after the match.
France dominated possession in the first half but found clear-cut chances hard to come by against a well-drilled Uzbekistan outfit.
Indeed, the Asian team could have hit the front themselves on the stroke of half-time when Yakhyo Urinboev headed at goal, but his effort was saved by Paul Argney.
France came even closer on the hour when Joan Tincres met a corner delivery on the volley from six yards out but struck the inside of the post, before the same player sent the rebound wide.
Les Bleuets finally got the breakthrough in the 83rd minute. Substitute Mathis Lambourde’s thumping header bounced off the crossbar but the ball went straight to Bouneb, who tucked away a smart finish.
Uzbekistan forward Amirbek Saidov forced a fine save from Argney in the game’s dying moments, but they could not find a way past the inspired stopper as France saw out the victory.
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