The old foes meet in Group F of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 on Monday, with both sides making their second outings of the tournament. While the fixture may not carry the same meaning for the current crop as it might for older generations, there is no doubt that both sides will be going all out to record a victory and write a new chapter in this historic rivalry.
The match pits two of world football’s biggest nations against one another, with Argentina starting as favourites. The heavily fancied South Americans boast several players with the potential to light up the tournament, including the gifted duo of Erik Lamela and Juan Iturbe, who starred in the Albiceleste’s opening 1-0 win over Mexico. A second victory would represent a big step towards the knockout stages for the six-time champions, whom coach Walter Perazzo believes are only likely to improve as the tournament wears on.
England have a reputation that would strike fear into most opponents. However, unlike Argentina, the Three Lions are far from full strength in Colombia, with a number of key players staying in England to prepare for the new Premier League season. This perhaps explains their below-par display in drawing 0-0 with Korea DPR, and in particular their drop in form after the half-time interval. “We built the team in just a few weeks,” said coach Brian Eastick. “We’re essentially still in the preparation phase. I could only make three changes against Korea DPR, but I had ten exhausted players.”
2 – The number of times Argentina and England have played each other at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. The Albiceleste won 2-1 when the sides met in 1997, while the pair’s 1981 encounter ended in a goalless draw. Their most recent meeting came in the last 16 of the FIFA U-17 World Cup earlier this summer, which England won 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in normal time. It is a stat that will no doubt give the U-20s heart as they go into Monday’s game.
Matthew Phillips, England winger: “There are positives to take from the first match, but there are also lots of things we need to work on. It’s true that there’s a certain rivalry with Argentina. I hope we’ll be up to the task and that we can finally record a victory.”
Walter Perazzo, Argentina coach: “The opening victory doesn’t relieve any of the pressure on us, because Argentina always have to win at tournaments like this. But it’s true that an opening victory is always good for self-confidence.”