When Argentina face Poland in Toronto on Thursday evening, fans
will be expecting a battle between South American flair and Polish
Albiceleste are looking to win the FIFA U-20 World Cup for
the sixth time in their history, while Poland fancy their chances
as the surprise packages of Canada 2007.
Argentina v Poland, Toronto, 12 July, 16.45 (local time)
Argentina go into the game as firm favourites, even though their players are at pains to shake off such a tag. After all, they have won this tournament five times in the past, and they got through their group matches without conceding a single goal, mainly down to some excellent performances from keeper Sergio Romero. The South Americans are unbeaten in their last nine FIFA U-20 World Cup matches, their last defeat coming at Netherlands 2005, when they lost the opening match to USA 1-0. Poland have taken a much more circuitous route to the Round of 16. In their opening match, they surprised one and all by beating Brazil 1-0, despite being reduced to ten men. They paid the price for these efforts in the next match against USA, suffering a 6-1 thrashing. The Poles put the defeat down to experience and are now raring to go against the quintuple champions.
Alongside goalkeeper Romero, two other players stood out for Argentina in their group matches - Ever Banega, who never stops running in midfield, and Sergio ' El Kun' Aguero, the star of the squad with three goals to his name and one eye on the adidas Golden Shoe. The team showed just what they were capable of in putting six past a hapless Panama side in their second match. For Poland, one name leaps out - Dawid Janczyk. It seems that half the clubs in Europe have their eye on the striker who has already notched twice during the tournament, and the Argentinian defenders will be well advised to keep close tabs on him throughout the match. Damian Escudero is injured and will be missing for the favourites, along with Mathias Sanchez, who has picked up two yellow cards and is thus suspended. For the Eatern Europeans, Jaroslaw Fojut also has to sit this one out after twice being cautioned.
The teams have met on two previous occasions at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, with Argentina coming out on top both times. In Japan in 1979, a certain Diego Maradona got his name on the score-sheet in a 4-1 success, while in the semi-final of the 1983 tournament, the South Americans had to make do with a 1-0 win. This is the second time that Argentina have come through the group stage without conceding a goal - a feat they also managed in 1983. For Poland, this is only the fourth time that they have made it through to the knockout phase of an FIFA-organised world youth tournament. On the previous occasions that Poland made it to the knockout phases of a FIFA youth tournament, they went all the way to the semi-finals, finishing third at the FIFA World Youth Championship Mexico 1983, fourth at Japan 1979 and fourth again at the FIFA U-17 World Championship Japan 1993.
"There will be no margin for error. If we lose, we're out. Poland sometimes change their formation and can play with either one or two attackers, but I'd be better off spending my time thinking about my own team. We need to work hard, work up a real sweat and run our legs into the ground if we want to win. If things go well, as they did against Panama, the more skilful players will be the ones who make the difference." Hugo Tocalli, Argentina coach.
"There are no more favourites when you get to this stage of the tournament. Argentina have the same chances of winning as we do. I think that Brazil and Argentina have the same qualities and play a similar brand of football. We took a lot out of our win over Brazil, and I think that we've got every chance of beating Argentina." Dawid Janczyk, Poland striker.