Kolkata: The Yuba Bharati Krirangan is set to uproar in delight when Group F toppers England take on Japan in the pre-quarterfinals on Tuesday. The stadium in Kolkata has become a Lions’ den for the English who are yet to lose a match in the city. Apparently Japan also played their last group match against New Caledonia in Kolkata, but failed to win it.
The ‘Three Lions’ were however dealt with a blow after star player Jadon Sancho had to return back to club Dortmund midway through the tournament. The former Man-City academy player had been an instrumental weapon in England’s sweet run in the World Cup scoring three goals while assisting another two, which helped the Steve Cooper side maintain 100 per cent record in the tournament. “Jadon’s gone back. But it’s not about just one player, it is the team that is important,” said Cooper ahead of the match.
He also added, “We will always be about the team. We have 20 players now who are capable of playing for England and we can’t wait to get back at this excellent stadium” and interestingly Cooper has already used all his 20 players in the past three matches, without any dip in their playing style. Sancho will surely be missed by the Football frenzy Kolkata fans but England has other array of stars that can light up the stadium on Tuesday.
Japan in the other hand started with a bang against Honduras, but lost the plot in a 2-1 defeat against France and could not get over it even against New Caledonia. They will look to bring out their A-game with fresh legs coming in against England. Japan will however have the edge if the match goes to tie-breaker with English teams having a history of losing them with the recent U-17 Euro final, a latest example.
France vs Spain
La Roja will aim to replicate their U-17 Euro success when they face an opponent whom they had earlier beaten 3-1 in the Euro quarter-finals in May. Now with seven chances to the present team, France however have a greater advantage when they face Spain in the Indira Gandhi Athletic stadium in Guwahati, having played all of their group matches on the same turf. Les Blues have blown their opponents apart in almost all the matches in the World Cup barring Japan whom they beat 2-1. “we know our opponents. We played them in May in Euro and that time we lacked experience. Now we have more balance in attack as well defence. We are better prepared to take them on, so the match is 50-50,” said France coach .
Spain on the other hand had to travel a bumpy road to the Knock-out stages. They lost to Brazil in the opening match but came back in style defeating both Niger and Korea DPR in the next two matches to finish second. Possesing players of calibre in the likes of Abel Ruiz and Mohammad Moukhliss, Spain will look to win their first ever U-17 World Cup. But, led by Amine Gouiri and with players such as Yacine Adli and Maxence Caqueret France has enough threat to spoil the party.
Iran vs Mexico
The Asian country defied the underdogs status to defeat Germany and remain undefeated in the group stages. On Tuesday they face Mexico who have so far failed to dominate their opponents other than the brief spark in 3-2 loss against England, which saw them score two back to back goals despite going down.
It is expected to be an open match with both sides possesing better players upfront. Mexico’s ‘Messi’ Diego Lainez will however be the main man for the two time champions Mexico as they aim for their their crown.
Mali vs Iraq
2015 runners-up Mali have been a side to beat it the World Cup. They have been dominant in attacks while also shielding their defence. The Asian champions on the other hand huffled and puffled their way into the knock-out rounds despite losing to England by a 4-0 margin of goals.
Mohammad Dawood, who single-handedly destroyed Chile, came in the second -half against England but has been suspended for this tie after receiving two yellows in the group stages and Iraq will have to cope without their main man in attack.