Per­fect French look­ing good for Italy re­peat

New Straits Times - - Sport -

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.

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