Spain outclassed France at U20 World Cup
By Marco Fumagalli
Easy victory for Spain against a boring France during the last match of the group stage for both teams.
With 2 victories in the first two matches of the group Spain was already qualified for next round and this game was only worth for seeding; coach Lopotegui took the chance to rest a few players and give minutes to others who hadn’t played in the tournament yet.
France instead was not sure of being qualified yet and had to take at least a point or hope for the US not to win against Ghana even though with having 4 points already, the “bleus” were basically sure of passing the group stage even as one of the best third.
The game was about seeding and about prestige; a year ago these two teams faced each other in the semi-final of the 2012 UEFA European U19 Championship ended with a Spanish victory after penalty kicks. There were great expectations for the over 7000 spectators in the Ali Sami Yen Arena in Istanbul and a little disappointment when everyone realized that young Spanish star Deulofeu was sitting on the bench while French captain Pogba had to miss the game for a ban due to 2 yellow cards in the first two matches.
4-3-3 for Spain with new full backs, Otto on the right and Gaya on the left; Paco Alcacer as center forward, Jese and Ruben on the wings while Oliver Torres was in his playmaking position in the midfield. Right from kickoff Spain started pressing France in their half to recuperate ball possession as fast as possible to later impose their own pace to the match.
If we didn’t criticize enough France for their 4-2-3-1 used in the previous two games, coach Mankowski began the match with a 4-4-2 having Kondogbia on the left midfield and Ngando on the opposite side in positions where they both could not express their full potential; Sanogo and Thauvin started as offensive couple while Veretout and Lemina took care of the center midfield.
Spain was leading the dance since kickoff and was slowly getting closer to Areola’s goal with a few shots that didn’t find the net right away; France had the best chance of the first 20 minutes of the match when a lost ball in Spain’s own half field let Thauvin be 1vs1 against Sotres but the French forward didn’t show killer finishing skills which will be confirmed during the entire match. The entire crowd, except a hundred French supporters, was cheering for Spain and making noise the rare times that France was in ball possession.
The first goal for Spain came after a beautiful descent down the right side for Jese where his foot work had France left defender Lucas Digne falling on his bottom after losing balance which let Jese assisting Paco Alcacer in the middle of the box for the winning tap in.
The domination of the first half for Spain also showed a post hit by Jese in the last seconds and two amazing plays by Atletico Madrid young star Oliver Torres able to dribble experienced French players like they were rookies.
Nothing changed in the second half; France coach Mankowski switched Kondogbia and Ngando but kept a 4-4-2 which didn’t make any sense; the only 5 minutes that Ngando played behind the strikers and Kondogbia in the defensive midfielder position, France was able to recuperate balls and begin offensive plays but then Ngando was substituted out on minute 60 and everything ended there for the bleus.
Jese’s goal sealed the game for Spain on minute 56. The match was in the hands of Spain even though the only thing that kept us awake was their bright red jersey while France was wearing a pale baby blue color that seemed like they were wearing a pajama that made us yawn the entire second half. France’s goal scored by Vion in the injury time set the final score to 2-1 and finally released us from the pain of boredom and let us free to embrace the Istanbul night life.
Spain ended the group stage confirming their favorite status and will play on Tuesday night here in Istanbul their eight-final match against a third placed team from another group. France will also play on Tuesday but will have to move to Gaziantep to face the host nation Country Turkey who will have the support of their loud fans in a match that won’t be as easy as they may expect.