Perfect French looking good for Italy repeat
SEOUL: France will look to soar into the Under-20 World Cup quarter-finals this week when they take on Italy in a rematch of last year’s U19 European final.
Just 10 months ago, the French thrashed Italy 4-0 to lift the European trophy and they will have little to fear after a perfect tournament in South Korea so far.
Les Bleus are yet to concede after reaching the knock-out stage with three straight wins against Honduras, Vietnam and New Zealand.
Of the 16 teams that reached the second round, only Venezuela had a better record.
France’s Jean-Kevin Augustin, the top scorer at the U19 tournament, has bagged three so far but the European champions insist they’re not getting carried away ahead of Thursday’s game.
“It’s a good memory (last year’s victory) but memories don’t win matches,” said France coach Ludovic Batelli.
“There have been changes in both teams and we have to analyse the Italians but we know that it will be a difficult match. It is always difficult against the Italians.”
Today, Japan will meet Venezuela, the other perfect performer in the group stage with three wins against Germany, Mexico and Vanuatu and no goals conceded.
It is the perfect stage for Ritsu Doan, with three goals so far, to enhance a growing reputation. Just 18, the 2016 Young Asian Player of the Year has been linked this week with European giants Ajax of Amsterdam and AS Monaco.
Not to be outdone, Lee Seung Woo, the Barcelona U19 player dubbed the “Korean Messi” scored a fabulous goal in the hosts’ 2-1 win over six-time winners Argentina, who became the biggest team to fall in the group stage.
Seung Woo and his Barcelona colleague Paik Seung Ho have impressed so much that there have been calls for them to be drafted in to South Korea’s senior team to help qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
South Korea host Portugal at an already sold-out Cheonan Stadium today.
Tomorrow, Group A tabletopppers England play Costa Rica, Uruguay meet Saudi Arabia and Germany, who squeezed through as one of four best thirdplaced finishers, take on Group C winners Zambia.
The United States, who finished top of Group F, play New Zealand on Thursday, while Mexico and Senegal meet in Incheon.