FIFA U-17 WC: France, Japan in battle for top spot

The way the two teams demolished their opponents the other day showed they would go all out for a win.

Takefusa Kubo, the ‘Japanese Messi’, scored one and assisted in another, and mostly played second fiddle to Keito Nakamura in the match against Honduras.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

 

Both France and Japan have a collection of fine strikers and midfielders, but the Asian team will be better equipped to handle the prevailing hot and humid weather conditions here. The Japan U-17 team has many players who made the trip to India (Goa) for the Asian Football Confederations U-16 championship late last year and that experience will keep the team in good stead.

The two teams will enter the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium on Wednesday eyeing the top spot in Group E of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup. The way the two teams demolished their opponents the other day showed they would go all out for a win.

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To judge France on the basis of its one-sided match against New Caledonia, a debutante, will be unfair, but the team has shown flair and enterprise.

Japan wasn't far behind in the way it dismantled Honduras, a team that has made the quarterfinals of the World Cup once. It was a masterclass.

Takefusa Kubo, the ‘Japanese Messi’, scored one and assisted in another, and mostly played second fiddle to Keito Nakamura, who scored a hat-trick.

Man to man, there is little to differentiate between the two teams. They must, however, remember that their defense hasn’t been tested to the optimum. That is where the focus could be.

Japan’s coach Yoshiro Moriyama said he's aware of France's strengths. “We have to move the ball well, try to dominate the game. They have a team of good forwards, a team of good quality. We need to defend well.”

“Defense is essential,” said French coach Lionel Rouxel. "They are a really good team."

The fans came in large numbers to watch the opener. With the best teams in the Group slugging it out on Wednesday, the attendance is likely to swell further.

WEDNESDAY'S MATCHES: Japan vs France (5 pm.), New Caledonia vs Honduras (8 pm.).