France feel the Spain again

France feel the Spain again

European champions Spain rallied to make the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup with a 2-1 victory over France, signalling their title intentions here on Tuesday.

Spain will take on Asian surprise package Iran, who knocked out fancied Mexico by a similar margin in the day’s another pre-quarterfinal clash at Margao, Goa.

Juan Miranda (44th minute) and Abel Ruiz (90th) scored for Spain, while Lenny Pintor struck for France in the 34th minute at the Indira Gandhi Stadium.

The opening half was a cagey affair between the two European heavyweights with little to separate the two sides through the first half hour. That changed on 34 minutes when Pintor’s fine move and finish after Amine Gouiri picked him out on the left side of the Spain box. The lead did not last more than 10 minutes as Miranda restored parity just as the half time approached. The Barcelona defender made an unattended run into the France box to meet Ferran Torres’s cross from the right after France failed to clear their lines. Spain celebrated after Miranda headed in the ball to the top right corner off a Ferran Torres cross. That equaliser seemed to inspire Spain in the second half with Sergio Gomez having the pick of their chances. He forced France goalkeeper Yahia Fofana into a good save on 56 minutes before missing the target with an excellent free-kick opportunity.

As the match seemed destined for a penalty shoot-out at the full-time whistle, Spain were awarded a decisive spot-kick in the final minutes after substitute Jose Lara went down under the close attention of defender Oumar Solet in the France box. Captain Ruiz stepped up to convert the penalty and send Spain into the last eight of the competition.

Incidentally, France had lost to Spain in the quarterfinals of the European Championships.

In the four-minute injury time, Wilson Isidor’s header from the centre of the box off Maxence Caqueret’s cross was blocked by the Spanish defence. There were attempts galore in both halves as France and Spain looked to outdo each other.

Before that, Pintor’s right-footed attempt off Yacine Adli pass too was saved, as the Frenchmen’s quest to find the equaliser ended in disappointment. Spain, too, made their moves but they were also not effective enough.

Having staged a fine comeback after losing their tournament opener to Brazil, Spain are seeking their maiden FIFA U-17 World Cup title.

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