Aussies on Elephant trail

Australia have travelled to Mexico with a squad packed with home-based players, while opponents Côte d’Ivoire have more foreign exports in their talented ranks than any other team in the tournament. Those contrasting philosophies alone should make for an intriguing contest as the two sides begin their bids to progress from Group F.

The game
Australia-Côte d’Ivoire, Monday 20 June, Guadalajara, 18.00 (local time)

The stakes
Though absent from Nigeria 2009 and Korea 2007, the Joeys can be considered FIFA U-17 World Cup regulars, thanks to the sterling work performed by the Australian Institute of Sport in nurturing the country’s young talent. Only two members of the side play their club football outside the country, both of them in England: Liverpool defender Tom King, and West Ham United striker Dylan Tombides. In contrast the Ivorian squad feature nine players who are based overseas, in France, England, Italy and Qatar.

Australia were in fine form in their warm-up matches in Mexico, limbering up with wins over Uruguay and Canada, while the Elephants lost to Mexico and England, the latter game by the odd goal in nine, this after they had taken a 4-2 lead. Coach Alain Gouamene used the second half of the England match to give his substitutes a run-out, however, and despite the final score he remains confident about his side’s chances.

The stat
16 + 4
– The Côte d’Ivoire squad is the second youngest in the tournament, with an average age of 16 years and four months, two months older than their fellow Africans Congo.

The words
“Playing at altitude puts a lot of demands on the body, and in comparison with the other teams we faced in the warm-up games I think our preparation was pretty good. We are in confident mood but I’d like to think that comes from the belief we have in the work we do. Confidence only comes when you work hard and do things right,” Australia coach Jan Versleijen.

“We now have an idea of which players are absolutely ready and which are less so. I’m happy with how the team’s come together, and the most important thing in the friendlies was to identify positive and negative signs,” Côte d’Ivoire coach Alain Gouamene.