‘Emotional contest’ for France against New Caledonia

Champion in 2001, France hasn’t done quite justice to its prodigious talent and the famed youth structure it has nurtured with such care and rare foresight in recent times.

France coach Lionel Rouxel interacts with the media in Guwahati on Saturday.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

 

Vastly experienced, France coach Lionel Rouxel has an unenviable task of getting some very talented young players to put their minds and hearts to the huge task of winning the title, which has eluded the country for long.

Champion in 2001, France hasn’t done quite justice to its prodigious talent and the famed youth structure it has nurtured with such care and rare foresight in recent times.

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Rouxel, a striker in his heydays for top tier French clubs such as EA Guingamp and RC Strasbourg and coach for his ex-club U-18 EA Guingamp team since 2006, is the man in spotlight and if he is under pressure, he is not showing it, definitely. “Please switch off the Air Conditioner, lest our players become sick,” he joked, pointing at the AC right above his head, at the press conference here on Saturday.

“I know it will be difficult [to win the crown). We do have the ambition, but we would like to take it one match at a time,” said the 46-year-old.

Rouxel said the hot and humid weather conditions will be a factor as his players are not used to it. “Our players don’t like hot weather. But then, we have to adapt,” he added. “I hope it will not show on our players during the matches.”

Terming the first match against debutant New Caledonia (a French colony) as an "emotional contest”, Rouxel said it is going to be “never easy.”

Japanese football team attends a practice session on the eve of its match against Honduras in the FIFA under-17 World Cup, in Guwahati on Saturday.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

 

France is expected to top the group and Japan could be the second best team in Group E. But the Asian giant has bigger plans. In seven appearances, it hasn’t progressed beyond the quarterfinals—it reached the last eight twice in 1993 & 2011). “We want to stay as long as possible in India,” informed the coach Yoshiro Moriyama.

 

All the spotlight will be on Takefusa Kubo, dubbed the “Japanese Messi.” But Moriyama is not unduly worried about it. “He (Kubo] is good at finding spaces. He also needs to fix certain things; of which physical is one thing. We are not depending on him. If he is marked, other players will be free. I think Kubo will cope with it,” said the Japanese coach.

On taking on Honduras in the inaugural match here, Japan coach Moriyama credited the opponent team with having some strength in the midfield and in one-on-one battles. “But we are ready for the game.”

If at all there is a clear-cut prediction in any group, Group E tops it. But you never know!

Sunday’s matches: Group E: New Caledonia v France (5 p.m.); Honduras v Japan (8 p.m.).