Fancied France kicked off their campaign on a rousing note, inflicting a 7-1 humiliation on debutants New Caledonia in a Group E match of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
A formidable force in international football, France were on the ball from the word go at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, and their hapless opponents were on the backfoot throughout the match.
Interestingly, the French scored six of their seven goals in the first half.
The European heavyweights opened the account when Bernard Iwa scored an own goal to give France the lead in the fifth minute.
Amine Gouiri doubled the lead in the 20th minute when he found the back of the net from the centre of the box after being fed by Yacine Adli.
Ten minutes later, Claudio Gomes made it 3-0 for France, this time Gouiri making the assist. Gouiri was soon back to his scoring ways as he hit the target barely three minutes later off an Adli pass.
In the 40th minute, it turned from bad to worse for New Caledonia as Maxence Caqueret made use of Adli’s headed pass to score France’s fifth goal.
And if that was not enough, France benefitted when New Caledonia conceded another own goal this time through Kiam Wanesse.
The scoreline read 6-0 in favour of France at the half time and even though they continued to be at the receiving end after the break as well, New Caledonia conceded only once while scoring one.
In the 90th minute, New Caledonia scored their first goal when Sidri Wadenges’ left-footed shot from the right found the back of the net. He was assisted by Cyril Nyipie’s cross following a set piece situation.
France completed the rout when Wilson Isidor scored in the first minute of injury time.
The margin could have been bigger had France’s Caqueret not missed a penalty in the 54th minute.
France are hoping to replicate their European Championships success on the global stage. France and Japan are favourites to qualify for the knockouts from the group, which also has Honduras, besides New Caledonia.
A winner of the 2001 edition in Trinidad and Tobago, France have competed in only five of the 16 finals, and it is the first time they have qualified for successive editions after getting knocked out in the Round of 16 in 2015, Chile.