Iraq look to seal last-16 berth against England; knockout spot at stake for Japan
Kolkata: Iraq will look to continue their dream run and seal a maiden pre-quarter-final berth when they lock horns with heavyweights England in a Group F match of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup here on Saturday.
Making their second U-17 World Cup appearance, Iraq have been the surprise package of the proverbial 'group of death' as they are well placed to advance to the knockout stage following a spirited 1-1 draw against two-time champions Mexico, and a 3-0 rout of Latin American giants Chile.
England have already sealed a last-16 berth, while a draw will be enough for Iraq to earn a historic place in the knockout stage. However, Iraq would be aiming for an outright win which will make them group toppers and see them play their knockout match here. For Iraq, Mohammed Dawood has been in the centre of their attack scoring three of the four goals. He is continuing from where he had left in their historic AFC U-16 Championship triumph around the same time in Goa last year. The Iraqi No 7 looked a complete striker with his pace and control and his freekick from just outside the box that curled around the wall into the net in their win over Chile summed up the Baghdad youngster's brilliance.
It will be interesting to see how he goes past the English defence led by captain Joel Taibeaudiere along with Timothy Eyoma, Marc Guehi and Jonathan Panzo. The English defence seemed to crumble against a Diego Lainez's seven-minute brace late in the second half last Wednesday as they survived a scare to outlast Mexico 3-2 and ensure a pre-quarterfinal berth.
Iraq coach Qahtan Chitheer will look to exploit the defensive fragility of the English team as the contest will ultimately boil down to the two teams' defence. However, the coach does not want to add pressure on his ace forward Dawood.
In another match, Japan will look to return to winning ways against debutants New Caledonia and grab a knockout berth in a Group E fixture of the FIFA U-17 World Cup here on Saturday. Japan's rousing start to their campaign was halted by France as the East Asian powerhouse suffered a 1-2 defeat to hand their opponents a knockout berth in Guwahati two days ago.
Having shifted base to the iconic venue for the group stage climax, Japan will look to make short work of the debutants. New Caledonia, the newest member from the Oceania, have already leaked 12 goals already in two matches as another lopsided contest is on offer.
In their last outing, Japan trailed France by two goals but the Yoshiro Moriyama-coached side showed character to create chances.