Turkey remains hopeful as decisive round begins at U-20 World Cup
Turkish players celebrate during a World Cup 2013 match. The players are set to face France as their next rivals, as countries from five continents will take it to the field to decide who gets to stay for another round. Only Spain, a strong favorite, so far has managed to take maximum points from the group matches. AFP photoThe decisive phase of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013 starts today with the first four of the eight round-of-16 matches, with the host team Turkey raising expectations against France after an encouraging start.
For the nations involved, “go through” or “go home” are the only two options in the games in Istanbul and the southeastern Turkish province of Gaziantep, with Turkey facing off against France in the latter.
Today’s matches include teams from five continents, but of the eight in action on the day, only favorites Spain took the maximum points from their group matches.
“Football fans up and down the country will be focusing their passions on Gaziantep, where the young Turks go in search of a place in the last eight against France,” FIFA said on its official website.
“Coach Feyyaz Uçar’s side won two of their three group matches and will be confident of progressing, especially with talented Hamburg-bound playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu running in peak form, a fact underlined by his superb strike against Australia last time out,” it said.
“We’re growing as a team,” he told FIFA.com.
The Turkish side will have to do without İbrahim Yılmaz, who had his second yellow card of the group stage during the game with Australia, but France is also without towering Olympique Lyon defender Samuel Umtiti due to suspension.
On the plus side for the French, Juventus schemer Paul Pogba returns after serving out a ban.
Pierre Mankowski’s men are slight favorites going into the match, for although a group stage record of a win, a draw and a defeat is modest at best, it does suggest the French have yet to play to their full potential and could easily move up through the gears. Another fascinating dimension to the contest is the clash between the agile, individually skilled hosts and Mankowski’s physically powerful team.
Spain versus Mexico promises high-tempo football and slick short passing from both teams. Quite a few pundits thought the encounter would take place at a later stage of the tournament, but while the 2012 U-19 European champions cruised through the group stage with a perfect record, the 2011 U-17 world champions made surprisingly heavy weather of the preliminary phase and only just squeezed through as one of the best third-placed teams. La Rojita will again be looking to four-goal Jese and winger Gerard Deulofeu for inspiration, with El Tri forced to compensate for the loss of influential midfielder Jesus Escoboza to suspension.
Clash of styles
Newcomers Greece potentially face an uphill struggle against one of the surprise packages of the tournament. Uzbekistan shipped four goals without reply in a heavy defeat to Uruguay in their last group match, but they had previously laid down impressive credentials as a tough team to beat. Defender Maksimilian Fomin returns from suspension, and the Greeks will also be at full strength as they aim for a last-eight berth on their tournament debut.
The Nigeria-Uruguay encounter promises an absorbing clash of styles, although in terms of their form, the teams are on an identical track: Both lost their opening match but then won the next two and finished second in their groups. And many people rate the teams as a good outside bet for the trophy. “We’ll get even better,” Uruguay midfielder Geno Acevedo told FIFA.com.