A knock-out berth already booked, European powerhouse France would look to end their group engagements with an all-win record when they take on Honduras in the Group E match of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Guwahati on Saturday.
France have already qualified for the round of 16 after two consecutive wins and sit atop the group points table. They began with a 7-1 mauling of minnows New Caledonia and then beat Japan 2-1 in a tricky match.
They would want to beat Honduras on Saturday to maintain their group top spot so that they can meet a less fancied side in the knock-out round of 16. The ‘Les Bleuets’ have come here in India not as automatic four qualifiers in the European Championships but after a play-off between two best losing quarter-finalists.
They had beaten Hungary 1-0 in the fifth place play-off match. Here in India, they are having a fine run though they have not been tested much by strong opponents.
Amine Gouiri has been in great form having scored four goals in two matches — two each against New Caledonia and as many against Japan. New Caledonia have been whipping boys in the group but the match against Japan was a tricky one as the Asian powerhouse were never easy opponents. It was due to Gouiri’s brilliant double strike France were able to garner all seven points against a plucky Japan.
No doubt, France will be the clear favourites in Saturday’s match at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium and a win will keep them in Guwahati for the round of 16 match.
If they win, France will play against the second-placed team of Group D which may turn out to be Spain who had won the European qualifying tournament.
Honduras, on the other hand, would have to produce something extraordinary to beat their more superior rivals though they are also not short on confidence after their 5-0 thrashing of New Caledonia, their biggest win at a U-17 World Cup.
Carlos Mejia and Patrick Palacios scored two goals each for the Central Americans and the duo would look to continue their form if they have to make a match out of their more fancied rivals.
The Central Americans had lost to Japan 1-6 in their campaign opener before beating New Caledonia 5-0 in their previous match. Even a loss with a small margin can put them in a chance to qualify for the knock-out round as one of the four best third-placed finishers.
In the last edition in Chile in 2015, Honduras failed to register a win, bowing out at the group stages and this time they would be hoping that they make it to the knock-out stage.
France: Brahia Bernard, Yahia Fofana, Illan Meslier, Melvin Bard, William Bianda, Vincent Collet, Maxime Lacroix, Batista Mendy, Andy Pelmard, Oumar Solet, Yacine Adli, Maxence Caqueret, Claudio Gomes, Alan Kerouedan, Mathias Picouleau, Lenny Pintor, Aurelien Tchouameni, Alexis Flips, Willem Geubbels, Amine Gouiri, Wilson Isidor.
Honduras: Alex Rivera, Santiago Cabrera, Axel Gomez, Alexander Bahr, Cristian Moreira, Luis Palma, Jorge Flores, Gerson Chavez, Patrick Palacios, Alessandro Castro, Kenneth Martinez, Jordy Castro, Gustavo Vallecillo, Carlos Mejia, David Cardona, Asaf Cacho, Everson Lopez, Joshua Canales, Reynaldo Bodden, Emilio Campos, Carlos Banegas.