Hosts Mexico stamped their ticket to the FIFA U-17 World Cup last four on Monday with a 2-1 win over France in Pachuca. Urged on by lively home support and the sumptuous attacking play of Marco Bueno and Carlos Fierro, the Mexicans now move on to Torreon where they will meet the mighty Germans in the semi-finals.
The game began at a break-neck pace and both sides had chances to score from free-kicks inside the first five minutes. But the first goal didn’t come until the 14th minute, when Mexican danger-man Carlos ‘Charley’ Fierro rounded Kurt Zouma to the byline and pulled the ball back across the face of goal. Marco Bueno missed his effort on the doorstep, but Kevin Escamilla made no mistake, blasting low and into the back of the net to a monstrous roar from the home crowd
France were in no way stressed about their early deficit and three minutes later Jordan Ikoko broke into the box up the right side and fired a shot past Mexican keeper Richard Sanchez, who seemed to misjudge the bounce of the ball on the Hidalgo turf.
The home side took control of the first half from there on out and pressed forward in search of another goal through the ever-lively Fierro and Bueno. However, the French were not without their chances, especially on the counter-attack. Substitute Sebastien Haller – who came on for injured Abdallah Yaisien – was only denied a goal after 22 minutes by the lunging tackle of Mexico captain Antonio Briseno.
Mexico finished the opening period very much in the ascendancy, but they were unable to retake the lead before the whistle blew for the interval. A long-range shot from France’s Jordan Vercleyen marked the start of the second half, but it was Mexico who took the lead again in the 50th minute. Fierro, Mexico’s top scorer at these finals, was the man of the hour, the Chivas ace rounding his man in the box and curling a perfect finish from close range with his right foot.
Mexico were pressing again and Julio Gomez very nearly added to the 2-1 lead, but his clever free-kick zipped up and over the bar instead. Fierro also went close again in the 66th minute, but his looping header hit against the top of the crossbar. With the French still dangerous on the break with their speed and set pieces with their size, the Mexicans were in desperate need of an insurance goal. Fierro nearly supplied it in the 75th minute, but his shot with the outside of his foot trickled just the wrong side of the post.
France gave the hosts a few moments of bother near the end, but goalkeeper Sanchez was up to the task and the contest finished 2-1. The hosts now march on to meet Germany in Torreon on 7 July with a place in the final on offer.