FIFA U-17 World Cup: Spain look to get campaign back on track vs Niger
Spain will be under some pressure after losing to Brazil while Niger will ride on the confidence gained by defeating North Korea in the Group D FIFA U-17 World Cup contests in Kochi.fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 09, 2017 18:32 IST
European champions Spain had come into the FIFA U-17 World Cup as one of the title favourites. However, one game into the tournament, they find themselves in a make-or-break situation after losing the opening game of Group D to Brazil on Saturday.
The Spaniards had started well against the South American champions, taking an early lead through an own goal, before defensive lapses saw them go down 1-2. Their opponents on Tuesday, unfancied Africans Niger, made history the same day when they defeated North Korea 1-0 in what was their first ever match at a World Cup, across age groups.
“This game showed there are many areas we have to improve. We have to improve as a team, but we need improvements especially in defence,” Spain coach Santiago Denia had said after the loss to Brazil.
Denia’s side had dominated Brazil in the second half, something which even Brazil coach Carlos Amadeu had admitted. Despite a spate of corners or free kicks, they failed to find the back of the net again that evening.
“It is a concern. We need to work on our set pieces,” Denia said.
Among Spain’s best players against Brazil was right flanker Ferran Torres. The fast and skilful winger had caused several problems to Brazil’s backline and will hope to maintain his form against Niger.
Attacking midfielder Mohamed Moukhliss had done well in phases against Brazil, although he will be aiming to link up better with forward Abel Ruiz.
On the other hand, Niger are in high spirits after their win over North Korea.
“This is the first time we are attending a tournament like this. People of our country are very proud of our performance. Our matches are being shown live on national TV,” a beaming Tiemogo Soumalia, the team’s head coach, said after the win.
Niger were the better side against North Korea, but missed chances late in the game. Their defence, however, held tight, helping seal a memorable 1-0 win.
“It’s true we created many chances, which unfortunately we failed to convert, but that’s down to the fact that the players lack experience,” Soumalia stated in defence of his side’s finishing.
Salim Abdourahmane, who had scored the winning goal, missed a gilt-edged opportunity to double his side’s lead, while strike partner Ibrahim Boubacar too failed to convert from close range in the later stages of the game.
Against a much stronger opponent in Spain, it remains to be seen whether Soumalia keeps faith in the Ibrahim-Salim strike duo or opts for a more conservative approach with one more central midfielder.
Irrespective of the team composition, Niger will hope to be more clinical up front to stand a chance against the formidable Spain.
With four of the six third-placed teams moving into the round of 16, Niger could ensure a place in the knockout stages by avoiding a loss on Tuesday. Their opponents, however, will be looking for nothing less than a win.