FIFA U-17 WC: European giants France, Spain battle for a spot in quarters

Reigning European champion Spain will be looking look to preserve its favourable continental record when it takes on neighbouring France in a pre-quarterfinal encounter in Guwahati on Tuesday.

Spain U-17 team attends a training session on the eve of its FIFA U-17 World Cup pre-quarter final match against France in Guwahati.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

 

Reigning European champion Spain will be looking look to preserve its favourable continental record when it takes on neighbouring France in a pre-quarterfinal encounter of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup here at the Indira Gandhi Stadium on Tuesday.

France is a former champion (2001) while Spain has failed to realise the title despite reaching the final on three occasions (1991, 2003, 2007).

Spain will be leaning on its enviable EURO record, where it has won a record nine titles (combining the record of under-16 and under-17 events), as it looks for inspiration ahead of the match.

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The team arrived here as the group D runner-up while France, the group E topper, has the advantage of staying back at the venue where it has been camping for the last 14 days.

The match is expected to throw up a good contest as two traditional giants of Europe come across each other for the second time in the year. The previous meeting, happening in the Euro U-17 quarterfinals in Croatia, saw the Spaniards prevailing over the young Les Blues 3-1. That loss forced France to the play-offs, which it had to win to qualify as the fifth team from Europe.

France will be taking heart from the dominance it enjoyed in the group stage of the U-17 World Cup where it scored 14 goals while conceding only three. “After the EURO we have brought in seven new names in the side. We had to do that looking at the demands of the World Cup and I think that was a good decision,” France coach Lionel Rouxel said. His team’s strength comes from a nucleus of talented performers constituting the spine of the team. The best of it comes in the attack where names like Yacine Adli, Maxence Caqueret and Amine Gouiri give France a definite edge.

The Spaniards are banking on the efficiency of players like Abel Ruiz, who has been central to Spain’s attacking plans. Ruiz, a product of the Barcelona FC academy, is joined by a crop of fantastic talents from the academies of the La Liga giant. The names like Sergio Gomez (Barcelona), Mohamed Moukhliss (Real Madrid) and Ferran Torres (Valencia) are the ones likely to make their presence felt. Spain coach Santiago Denia said the nucleus of team has been together for the last two seasons, helping them adapt to playing conditions and match situations much better.

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