FIFA U-17 WC: Late penalty helps Spain edge past France

The pre-quarterfinal encounter here at the Indira Gandhi Stadium on Tuesday saw Spain erase a goal’s deficit to end France’s World Cup dreams.

Spaniards celebrate after winning against France in the FIFA U-17 World Cup pre-quarterfinal match in Guwahati on Tuesday.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

 

A penalty in the last minute opened the escape chute for Spain to nudge out a strong France 2-1 and ensure a place in the quarterfinals of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup. The pre-quarterfinal encounter here at the Indira Gandhi Stadium on Tuesday saw Spain erase a goal’s deficit to end France’s World Cup dreams. Spain will now travel back to Kochi, where it played the group stage matches, to meet Iran in the quarterfinals.

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France went ahead through a nice conversion from Lenny Pintor before Juan Miranda fetched the equaliser barely a minute from the end of the first half. Abel Ruiz converted the penalty coming Spain’s way in the last minute of the regulation to help his side move into the next round of the contest.

The two European giants remained on an even keel both in terms of attack and ball possession in the opening session, which saw the teams sharing two goals while enjoying 50 per cent ball possession. The two even played similar formations but Spain strategised a better comeback in the end to have the French running out of steam. France found the break first with its midfield workhorse Maxene Caqueret creating the opportunity off a fine interception near the centre line in the 34th minute. Caqueret released Amine Gouiri with a through pass outside the Spain box. The latter in turn pushed the ball diagonally for an onrushing Lenny Pintor to find the net with a snap shot.

 

Spain, which so far had been playing a waiting game, started pushing more men in the attack in search of the equaliser. Juan Miranda, playing as the left-back, made an overlapping run through the flank in the 44th minute and set up a probing cross that was parried by the French goalkeeper Yahia Fofana. The ball reached the Spanish captain Abel Ruiz, who turned it square for Mohamed Moukhliss to release Ferran Torres on the right end. Torres set another floater on the goalmouth as an unmarked Miranda nodded home the equaliser.

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The second half belonged to Spain as it showed a greater variety in passing and attack. The La Liga influence, with a large number of its players gleaned from the youth teams of the top league, seemed to count for the Spaniards, who finally found the break off a penalty. Ruiz, the Barcelona striker, and the versatile Valencia midfielder Torres had the chances earlier but could not put it past an alert Fofana

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