Having yet to win a match thus far, France need to remedy that
situation against Japan if they are to avoid an early exit. Their
opponents on the other hand already have a three-point haul, and a
draw would be enough for them to finish second, provided group
leaders Nigeria do not lose to Haiti. Coach Hiroshi Jofuku would,
of course, prefer his team to put qualification beyond doubt with a
win, and receive an important psychological boost for the rest of
France - Japan, Goyang, 25 August, 19:00 (local time)
France were one of the favourites to win Group D but have failed to live up to their billing. Defeat to Nigeria and a nervous draw with Haiti have done nothing to reassure coach Francois Blaquart ahead of this all-or-nothing encounter. Les Bleuets need to find their rhythm - and fast - otherwise they will be packing their bags and heading back to Europe at the final whistle.
Against Japan, this will be no easy matter. Having beaten Haiti in their opening match, they slipped to a heavy 3-0 defeat to Nigeria. Jofuku's men are currently in control of their own destiny, and a draw should be enough to secure at least one of the four best third-place slots in the last 16. Victory, of course, would put their progress beyond doubt.
French left-back Badis Lebbihi picked up two yellow cards in three minutes against Haiti and will be forced to watch the match from the sidelines. Japan are at full strength.
The two teams have met only once in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, during the group stages at Trinidad and Tobago in 2001. France strolled to a 5-1 victory and went on to win the tournament.
"Japan play a similar style of football to ours. They have a few weak points of course, but I'd rather concentrate on our strengths than their weaknesses." Francois Blaquart,Francecoach
"The match against France is vital for both teams. After the mistakes we made against Nigeria, we are going to try to be stronger in defence to be at our best for this game." Hiroshi Jofuku,Japancoach