A place in the last 16 is up for grabs as Mexico take on England in the final round of matches in Group F. After playing their first two games of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 in Medellin, the sides travel to Cartagena for Thursday’s crucial encounter. The prize at stake brings pressure in itself, but the teams will also have to contend with the searing heat on the coast after spending the early stages of the tournament in the cooler climes of the Colombian mountains.
Mexico bounced back from their opening defeat by Argentina with a 3-0 victory over Korea DPR. The win gave El Tri a positive goal difference and leaves them needing only a point against England to be sure of their place in the knockout stages. With that in mind, coach Juan Carlos Chavez may be tempted to opt for a more conservative approach to the one he employed against the North Koreans, despite declaring his intention to respect Mexico’s tradition for attack-minded football.
England, on the other hand, will be more concerned about recording an overdue first victory at the 2011 finals than how they go about it. Brian Eastick’s side will need to win if they are to have any hope of prolonging their stay in Colombia - and that means finding a way to finally break their goalscoring duck at the tournament.
Both teams face the challenge of acclimatising to the heat and humidity in Cartagena, and they will need to adapt quickly if they are to bring their game plans to fruition. The sides are also likely to have one eye on the group’s other match between Argentina and Korea DPR, as they will be keen to discover the final standings and find out who has advanced to the next round.
18 – Saido Berahino’s age when he steps on to the pitch at the Estadio Jaime Moron Leon on Thursday 4 August. England’s Burundi-born forward celebrates his birthday the very same day, and it goes without saying that a win against Mexico would be the ideal present.
Taufic Guarch, Mexico forward: “Playing safe is not in our culture, and it’s the best way to play if you want unpleasant surprises. We prefer to play to win and be disappointed with a draw, rather than play for a draw and risk losing."
Brian Eastick, England coach: “If we don’t qualify, it would obviously be a failure. At the same time, you can’t deny that this team has always tried to play good football, nor take away the experience these players are gaining from the tournament.”