- France, Italy face repeat of 2016 European Under-19 Championship final
- Mexico out to rediscover scoring touch against Senegal
- Records in the offing for USA and New Zealand
MATCHDAY PREVIEW –**The final day of the Round of 16 of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017 has lots to offer, with a revenge match on the bill, a couple of teams looking to make history and all six sides in action desperate to avoid an early flight home, which in some cases would be altogether unexpected.
France and Italy meet in Cheonan in what ranks as a big match whichever way you look at it, pitting together two powerhouses of world football. While the French impressed in the group phase, both in terms of results and performances, the Azzurri lost to Uruguay in their tournament debut before recovering their poise with a win over South Africa.
After scraping through in second place in their section and only narrowly beating Vanuatu, Mexico now take on Senegal in Incheon. The Africans made a bright start to their competition by beating Saudi Arabia but struggled in their games against USA and Ecuador, dropping points in both.
Meanwhile, the Americans and New Zealand have both proved capable of playing stylish football, producing some neat possession play and plenty of attacking intent, all of which points to an interesting duel in Incheon.
What you need to know
France and Italy meet in a repeat of last year’s UEFA European Under-19 Championship final. Les Bleus won that match 4-0, denting the status of an Italy side competing for the title thanks in part to their solid defence. Of the 11 France players that started that match, only Kylian Mbappe is not at Korea Republic 2017, while only six of Italy’s starters have made the journey to the Far East.
Mexico arrived at the U-20 World Cup with a well-earned reputation for being a dangerous attacking unit, after top-scoring in the CONCACAF qualifiers with 15 goals. They have found goals hard to come by in Korea Republic, however. While two of the three they scored against Vanuatu were attributable to goalkeeping errors, the Mexicans failed to find the back of the net at all against Venezuela and Germany. Can Ronaldo Cisneros, Uriel Antuna and Co get back in among the goals against the Senegalese?
Aged only 17, Joshua Sargent is one of the breakout stars of Korea Republic 2017. His three goals in the group phase and his ability to move undetected into space – a gift he showcased in his side’s goal against Saudi Arabia – have made him one of the competition’s outstanding forwards. Two more goals against New Zealand will take him past his country’s leading scorers at a U-20 World Cup: Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson and Taylor Twellman, who scored four apiece at Canada 2007, UAE 2003 and Nigeria 1999 respectively.
New Zealand find themselves in the last 16 of the competition for the second time running, having come close to defeating Portugal at the same stage on home soil in 2015. Though they are without their two best players, Clayton Lewis and Dane Ingham, who have been called up to the All Whites’ squad for the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017, they do have the talented Myer Bevan in their ranks, not to mention Michael Woud, who made 17 saves in the group phase, more than any other goalkeeper.
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