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Rediff.com  » Sports » U-17 WC: Iraq eye historic knockout spot, France aim to continue run

U-17 WC: Iraq eye historic knockout spot, France aim to continue run

October 13, 2017 17:09 IST

IMAGE: Mohammed Dawood, left, celebrates scoring a goal for Iraq. Photograph: PTI

Iraq will look to continue their dream run and seal a maiden pre-quarterfinal berth when they lock horns with heavyweights England in a Group F match of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Kolkata, on Saturday.

Making their second Under-17 World Cup appearance, Iraq have been the surprise package of the proverbial 'group of death' as they are well placed to advance to the knockout stage following a spirited 1-1 draw against two-time champions Mexico, and a 3-0 rout of Latin American giants Chile.

IMAGE: Mohammed Dawood, left, celebrates scoring a goal for Iraq. Photograph: PTI

England have already sealed a last-16 berth, while a draw will be enough for Iraq to earn a historic place in the knockout stage.

However, Iraq would be aiming for an outright win which will see them top their group and play their knockout match in Kolkata.

For Iraq, Mohammed Dawood has been in the centre of their attack, scoring three of the four goals, taking over from where he had left in their historic AFC Under-16 Championship triumph around the same time in Goa last year.

The Iraqi No. 7 looks a complete striker with his pace and control and his freekick from just outside the box that curled around the wall into the net in their win over Chile summed up the Baghdad youngster's brilliance.

It will be interesting to see how he goes past the English defence led by captain Joel Taibeaudiere along with Timothy Eyoma, Marc Guehi and Jonathan Panzo.

The English defence seemed to crumble against a Diego Lainez's seven-minute brace late in the second half as they survived a scare to outlast Mexico 3-2 and ensure a pre-quarterfinal berth.

Iraq coach Qahtan Chitheer will look to exploit the defensive fragility of the English team and the contest might ultimately boil down to the two teams' defence.

However, the coach does not want to add pressure on his ace forward Dawood.

"There are other players in the team who are equally good and talented as well. Each player has his own skill. We play as a team and we have been able to achieve success through tough training conditions," Chitheer said on the eve of the crucial match.

With seven goals from two matches, England could not have asked for a better start. Borussia Dortmund's attacking midfielder Jadon Sancho has showed why he is much sought-after with three goals from two matches.

Manchester United's Alex Gomes, City's Phil Foden and Rhian Brewster of Liverpool -- all have looked in prime form with goals to their name and the English attack will not look any further.

Sancho is likely to leave for his club after the group stage as Manchester United starlet Alex Gomes who had started from the bench in both their matches may be given more responsibility.

England coach Steve Cooper said they are not taking Iraq lightly even though they have already reached the last-16.

"It is a luxury to qualify after two games. But we are not thinking past the group stage yet. We have to show respect to our next opposition by recovering and putting on a good show
again," Cooper said.

Rampaging France eye hat-trick

IMAGE: France's Amine Gouiri, left, narrowly misses scoring a goal. Photograph: PTI

Their knockout berth already booked, European powerhouse France would look to end their group engagements with an all-win record when they take on Honduras in the Group E match of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Guwahati on Saturday.

France have already qualified for the round of 16 after two consecutive wins and sit atop the group points table. They began with a 7-1 mauling of minnows New Caledonia and then
beat Japan 2-1 in a tricky match.

They would want to beat Honduras to maintain their group top spot so that they get an easier opponent in the round of 16.

The 'Les Bleuets' made it to the World Cup not as automatic four qualifiers in the European Championships but after a play-off between two best losing quarter-finalists.

They had beaten Hungary 1-0 in the fifth place play-off match. In this tournament, they are enjoying a fine run though they have not been tested much by strong opponents.

Amine Gouiri has been in great form having scored four goals in two matches -- two each against New Caledonia and as many against Japan.

New Caledonia have been whipping boys in the group but the match against Japan was a tricky one as the Asian powerhouse were never easy opponents. It was due to Gouiri's
brilliant double strike France were able to garner all seven points against a plucky Japan.

No doubt, France will be the clear favourites in Saturday's match at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium and a win will keep them in Guwahati for the round of 16 match.

If they win, France will play against the second-placed team of Group D which may turn out to be Spain who had won the European qualifying tournament.

Honduras, on the other hand, would have to produce something extraordinary to beat their more superior rivals though they are also not short on confidence after their 5-0 thrashing of New Caledonia, their biggest win in an Under-17 World Cup.

Carlos Mejia and Patrick Palacios scored two goals each for the Central Americans and the duo would look to continue their form if they have to make a match out of their more fancied rivals.

The Central Americans had lost to Japan 1-6 in their campaign opener before beating New Caledonia 5-0 in their previous match. Even a loss with a small margin can put them
in a chance to qualify for the knockout round as one of the four best third-placed finishers.

Knockout berth at stake for Japan

IMAGE: Japan Keito Nakamura scores a goal. Photograph: FIFA/Twitter

Japan will look to return to winning ways against debutants New Caledonia and grab a knockout berth in a Group E fixture of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Kolkata on Saturday.

Japan's rousing start to their campaign was halted by France as the East Asian powerhouse suffered a 1-2 defeat to hand their opponents a knockout berth in Guwahati two days ago.

Having shifted base to the iconic venue for the group stage climax, Japan will look to make short work of the debutants.

New Caledonia, the newest member from the Oceania, have already leaked 12 goals already in two matches as another lopsided contest is on offer.

In their last outing, Japan trailed France by two goals but the Yoshiro Moriyama-coached side showed character to create chances.

The best of those opportunities was a free-kick from Keito Nakamura, and that took a big deflection off the France wall and flew just wide.

 At the other end, Maxence Caqueret was unlucky not to see a long-range strike hit the target before the break as Japan halved the deficit through a Taisei Miyashiro penalty.

Striker Keito Nakamura, who scored tournament's first hat-trick in their 6-1 win over Honduras, will once again look to pile misery on the debutants.

The islanders have scored their only goal of the meet through defender Sidri Wadenges, and their inexperience was out in the open when they scored two own goals Iwa Bernard and
Kiam Wanesse against France.

A 0-5 defeat to Honduras followed as the wide gap between the Islanders and the other teams became all too apparent.

"Now the excitement is behind us. We are going to put in a lot of work and stay more focused for the final group match," New Caledonia goalkeeper Une Kecine said.

It will be interesting to see how they cope up against a rampant Japan featuring in their eighth World Cup appearance as their veteran coach Yoshiro Moriyama can afford to rest
their star players.

Japan netted an incredible 24 goals, almost twice as many as any of their rivals, in five matches of the AFC Under-16 Championship in Goa last year.

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