FIFA U-17 WC: Mexico's fate hangs in the balance

Having drawn (1-1) with Iraq and having lost a closely-fought battle (2-3) against table-topper England, Mexico could still qualify even with a draw against Chile in a Group-F contest here on Saturday.

Mexico is in stage where it has to win by a big margin over Chile on Saturday and also hope that Iraq lose to England in Kolkata for it to qualify for the playoffs.   -  AP

By the end of Group-E and Group-F matches here and in Kolkata respectively on Saturday, calculators will be put to use to identify the teams that will qualify for the play-offs from the two groups in the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

Mexico, the seven-time CONCACAF and two-time World Cup U-17 champion, is certainly not in a comfortable position.

Having drawn (1-1) with Iraq and having lost a closely-fought battle (2-3) against table-topper England, Mexico could still qualify even with a draw against Chile in a Group-F contest here on Saturday. A big win will virtually guarantee it a place in the next round. Mexico’s hand will further strengthen if England beats Iraq in Kolkata placed in the same group.

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England was the first team to make it to the pre-quarterfinals from Group-F after victories over Mexico and Chile. Chile, on the other hand, having lost both its group matches, to England (0-4) and Iraq (0-3), may still be able to qualify if it defeats Mexico.

Mexico coach Mario Arteaga said he knows the task on hand, and will go all out for a win. “Our only option is to win. We are going to play as a team, with equal emphasis on attack and defence. More important, we have to play an intelligent game,” he said, at a press conference here on Friday.

While qualification of teams for the round of 16 in Group-F matches hangs in balance, things are simpler in Group-E. Given the two weaker teams in Honduras and New Caledonia, the two teams that will be making it to the pre-quarterfinals seem to be France and Japan.

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France, at the top of the group with two wins, will want to round-off with an all-win record - the topper in Group-E will remain in Guwahati for the last-16 clash - when it takes on Honduras here. “It is an important match [for us] because we want to finish first in the group. We are preparing for this match with a lot of seriousness," said France coach Lionel Rouxel.

"We are going to give chances to new players as some are [quite] tired having played two matches." France might leave out skipper Claudio Gomes who is having a niggle.

Jose Valladares’ boys, too, have a chance to qualify as the third best team if it draws with France.

Saturday's matches from Guwahati

Group-E: France v Honduras (5 p.m.);

Group-F: Mexico vs Chile (8 p.m.).