The Toronto crowd is in for a treat on Thursday when Mexico and
Portugal, two of the most attractive teams at the FIFA U-20-World
Cup Canada 2007, cross swords at the National Soccer Stadium. Both
sides won plaudits for imposing opening displays, underlining their
strong credentials as potential trophy candidates. There is plenty
to play for in Toronto too, as a win for either side would
guarantee a place in the Round of 16.
Mexico v Portugal, Toronto, 5 July, 19.45 (local time)
Both teams are well aware that victory automatically means qualification for the next round. The sides turned in impressive opening displays, Mexico brushing aside Gambia 3-0 in a clear statement of their title ambitions. The Mexican line-up largely comprises players who went to Peru for the FIFA U-17 World Cup two years ago and duly came away with the trophy. The young Mexicans know each other inside out, form a harmonious unit, and are hungry for success. The Portuguese boast a crop of outstanding individuals, although their victory over minnows New Zealand was unexpectedly hard work, despite captain Bruno Gama's brace.
Both teams are at full strength, with neither coach likely to change a winning team from the opening match. Mexico's Patricio Araujo and Portugal's Mano and Fabio Coentrao collected yellow cards in the first match.
One milestone will be passed on Thursday as the fixture will be Mexico's 40th match at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. The first was a 6-0 victory against Tunisia on 27 June 1977. It is also the 400th FIFA U-20 World Cup match featuring a European team. The first such meeting also took place 30 years ago when France fell 2-1 to Spain. Mexico and Portugal met at the quarter-final stage of the 1991 FIFA U-20 World Cup, a match the Lusitanians won 2-1 in extra time courtesy of a Toni strike on 101 minutes. The score and the outcome was the same when the senior teams met at the group stage of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™.
"We've come here to win the World Cup, but we'll have to improve further if we're to achieve our goal." Jesus Ramirez, Mexico coach.
"We've come here looking to win every game, including
the final. Hopefully, on the way there I'll score more
Bruno Gama, Portugal captain
"If we can carry on where we left off against Gambia, we could even win the tournament. We just have to stick together and stay motivated." Giovanni dos Santos, Mexico striker.
"We're playing well as a team, but it'll be a tough match against Portugal because they have some excellent players. It'll be hard work and we'll need our share of luck." Patricio Araujo, Mexico captain.