How Zinedine Zidane is a big factor in France vs Spain clash at FIFA U-17 World Cup
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How Zinedine Zidane is a big factor in France vs Spain clash at FIFA U-17 World Cup

One of the greatest players of all time, Zinedine Zidane, who was named the best European footballer of the past 50 years in the UEFA golden jubilee poll in 2004 -- has a positive influence over both France and Spain U-17 sides who will play each other in a FIFA U-17 World Cup round of 17 match in Guwahati on Tuesday

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 17, 2017 09:54 IST
Rahul Karmakar
Rahul Karmakar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
FIFA U-17 World Cup,France vs Spain,FRA v ESP
Football legend Zinedine Zidane, who led the France national football team to the FIFA World Cup triumph, currently coaches Real Madrid in the Spanish La Liga. As the U-17 side from France and Spain get ready to take on each other in the FIFA U-17 World Cup round of 16 match, there are a few parallels in the sides thanks to Zidane. (Getty Images)

The football, or rather, the sporting rivalry between France and Spain is of epic proportions -- perhaps best illustrated by French basketball player Nicolas Batum who punched Spaniard Juan Carlos Navarro in the groin during their 2012 Olympics encounter in London.

But, as the French and Spanish side get ready to take each other on in their FIFA U-17 World Cup round of 16 match in Guwahati on Tuesday, one can’t help but realise the common factor that connects these two fierce rivals – France legend Zinedine Zidane.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Zidane was named the best European footballer of the past 50 years in the UEFA golden jubilee poll in 2004.

Amine Gouiri of France (centre) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the FIFA U-17 World Cup Group E match against Japan at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati last week. (FIFA)

France forward Amine Gouiri, this tournament’s leading scorer with five goals from three Group E matches, is hailed back home as the ‘New Zidane’ with the predatory instincts of Englishman Gary Linekar.

Gouiri dreams of playing for Spanish giants Real Madrid, who are coached by Zidane since 2016. The youngster’s fascination for the former French attacking midfielder is partly because they share a common ethnicity – both were born to Algerian immigrants.

Spain’s mercurial midfielder Mohamed ‘Moha’ Moukhliss swears by Zidane too.

“I wanted to be a footballer ever since I received a Real Madrid jersey signed by Zidane via a friend of my father. I was about five then,” he said.

The Jersey is among Moha’s most precious possessions in his room at home. He has kept the jersey in such a position that it is the first thing he sees after waking up.

The Moroccan-origin Moha, often compared to Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, scored the opening goal in Spain’s 2-0 Group D victory over North Korea. It was his lone goal of the tournament, but he provided the creative spark for four more goals in the other Group D matches.

Moha’s role in the Spanish team compares with France’s Number 10 Maxence Caqueret and Yacine Adli, whose ability to create chances out of nowhere has made France a contender for the title.

The importance of Moha – as well as striker Abel Ruiz – in the Spanish line-up is underscored by the fact that he has never been substituted in the group matches.

France crushed New Caledonia 7-1, beat Japan 2-1 and thumped Honduras 5-1 to be in the pre-quarterfinals.

Spain did not have the best of starts, losing to Brazil 1-2 before beating Niger 4-0 and North Korea 2-0.

First Published: Oct 17, 2017 09:43 IST