Giants poised for early showdown

Two of the biggest names in the global game will get the ball rolling in Group B on Saturday, with France and Argentina due to open their FIFA U-17 World Cup accounts in Monterrey. Both are sure to be hungry for victory as they set out to take an early grip on the section.

The game
France-Argentina, Saturday 18 June, Monterrey, 15.00 (local time)

The stakes
The draw for Mexico 2011 could hardly have been tougher on both teams, and their Group B opener has all the trappings of a potential final. France and Argentina will kick off their campaigns with genuine hopes of lifting the trophy, an objective that Albiceleste coach Oscar Garre has made no effort to conceal. “We want to win the title – it’s the only trophy missing from Argentina’s collection,” he said when the draw was made. His team will get an early indication of where they stand as Les Bleuets are no less ambitious, having travelled to Mexico eager to add to their 2001 triumph in Trinidad and Tobago.

Confidence has nonetheless been shaken in both camps ahead of the big kick-off, with France on a run of five matches without victory. Disappointing in the 2011 UEFA European U-17 Championship, Patrick Gonfalone’s charges were subsequently unable to raise spirits in their warm-up games, drawing 2-2 with Congo and Mexico. As for their opponents, Argentina’s preparations for the tournament were undermined by the eruption of the Puyehue volcano in Chile, which caused havoc with air traffic towards Mexico and delayed their arrival until the day before the game.

The stat
– Despite ten previous appearances at this level, La Albiceleste have yet to return home with the trophy. In contrast, Les Bleuets celebrated glory ten years ago after reaching the showpiece thanks to a 2-1 win over Argentina – their only previous meeting in this competition.

The words
"France and Argentina are two big footballing nations, but Group B is very open and there are lots of different possibilities,” France coach Patrick Gonfalone.

“From what I’ve seen, this France team is very strong and very athletic, with a particularly effective aerial game. Despite that, we’re Argentina. We’ll need to fight hard and try to come out on top,” Argentina coach Oscar Garre.