Eight venture into the unknown
Thursday’s four Round of 16 ties at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015 pitch together sides that have never faced each other before in the competition. With one false move proving potentially fatal at this stage of proceedings, France and Germany will look to back up their status as title contenders, while a clutch of outsiders have their sights set on a shock or two. FIFA.com looks ahead to an exciting day of knockout action.
Match of the day France-Costa Rica, 29 October, 20:00 (local time)
Chile 2015’s most southerly venue, Puerto Montt will bid farewell to the competition with an enticing encounter between the tournament’s form team and the ambitious Central Americans. Not content with being the only side in the competition to win all their group games, Les Bleus are also its top scorers with 14 goals. Obvious trophy candidates, Jean-Claude Giuntini’s charges face a Costa Rica side that came second in their group and now have the last eight in their sights, a stage once reached by current senior Tico stars such as Keylor Navas and Celso Borges.
The other matches Germany and Croatia will contest an all-European tie, having charted differing routes to the last 16. Die Mannschaft made a strong start to their Chile 2015 campaign, qualifying for the knockout phase with a dominant display against Argentina in their second game, though defeat to Mexico in their final group outing brought them back down to earth. In contrast, Croatia made a slightly faltering start, drawing with hosts Chile and USA, before recording a notable win over defending champions Nigeria to book their knockout place.
Two wins and a draw allowed Russia to top their section and stay in Concepcion for a last 16 meeting with Ecuador, who scored more group-phase goals than in any of their three previous appearances in the competition. La Tri will be looking to their attack to fire against a Russia side that was one of only four teams to concede just a solitary goal in the first round.
Mali and Korea DPR will contest the day’s other match. The reigning African champions went unbeaten in topping their section and go into the match as favourites against a Chollima side that only qualified thanks to Jong Chan Bom’s 93rd-minute winner against Costa Rica. The North Koreans will be well advised to prevent Mali shooting from distance. As they showed in ending Honduras’ participation with three strikes from the edge of the box and beyond, the Malians are not afraid to let fly when they get a sight of goal.
Player to watch Nikola Moro (Croatia) The Croatia No10 has speed to go with his class and impish skills and is an inspirational presence to boot, as he showed in creating the two goals that gave his side a crucial win over Nigeria. If the Croatians are to upset Germany on Thursday, then the chances are that Moro will need to deliver once more. A member of the team of the tournament at the recent UEFA European Under-17 Championship, the deep-lying forward is intent on also being one of the stars of Chile 2015.
The stat 70 - the number of goal attempts African champions Mali racked up in the group phase, more than any other side in the competition, though only one in every 14 of those efforts brought a goal. That conversion rate is something coach Baye Ba will be hoping to improve upon as they bid to achieve his objective of reaching the last four.
The words “I’ve got faith in my players. As far as I’m concerned, we’re all equal. We’ll be going out there to win and so will France. We’ll go and do what we have to do and we’ll see at the end of the game if it was enough or not. They’re tough opponents, but if you want to be the champions, you’ve to go and beat everyone,” Costa Rica coach Marcelo Herrera.
Match schedule Round of 16 Mali-Korea DPR (Estadio Fiscal, Talca, 17:00) Croatia-Germany (Estadio Municipal Ester Roa, Concepcion, 17:00) Russia-Ecuador (Estadio Municipal Ester Roa, Concepcion, 20:00) France-Costa Rica (Estadio Chinquihue, Puerto Montt, 20:00)
(All times local)