The situation in Groups C and D of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in UAE could not be more contrasting going into the final round of matches. In Group D, Japan and Tunisia have already secured their berths in the knockout phase of the competition, leaving Russia and Venezuela to fight it out for a remote chance of qualifying in third place.
In Group C, on the other hand, everything is still wide open, and the last round of matches promises excitement until the final whistle.
Match of the day
The winner of this keenly anticipated encounter will book their place in the round of sixteen. For the unbeaten Uzbeks, a draw will suffice to progress. The Croats, however, will be relying on a combination of results elsewhere if it ends all square.
After accumulating four points in their first two matches, Morocco need only a draw to qualify. As for Panama, after two defeats they are close to packing their bags, and only victory will keep alive their hopes of remaining in the competition. Even if they win, the Central Americans are dependent on other results going their way.
In Group D the top two, Japan and Tunisia go head to head after victories in their opening two games propelled them into the Round of 16. Top spot and a match against one of the third-placed teams from another group is the prize for the winner. In the section’s other encounter, Russia and Venezuela, who have yet to pick up a point, will battle it out for third place and a shot at progressing to the next phase. The Russians especially, who came into UAE 2013 with high hopes, will be bitterly disappointed if they make an early exit.
Player to watch
Ryoma Watanabe (Japan)
He did not get off the bench against Russia, but the Japanese No11 made up for lost time with a man-of-the-match display when given his chance against Venezuela, scoring a brace and providing an assist in a 3-1 triumph. A constant source of danger, the Japanese captain was at the heart of practically every attack. If Watanabe continues to play such a prominent role his team-mates will have a lot to thank their captain for.
4 – Panama have now gone four matches without scoring a goal in FIFA U-17 World Cups. Failure to break the drought, which now stretches to 417 minutes, will end the Central Americans’ chances of qualifying for the knockout rounds.
“In the last U-17 World Cup, at Mexico 2011, we made it to the quarter-finals. We aim to go even further this time.” Japan coach Hirofumi Yoshitake