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Spain edge out France to make quarter-finals

Ruiz scores late winner from the spot

Gulf News

Guwahati: Spain edged past France 2-1 to enter the quarter-finals of the Fifa Under-17 World Cup at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium on Tuesday.

Lenny Pinto put France in the lead in the 34th minute but soon Juan Mirand of Spain scored an equaliser in the 44th minute.

In the 90th minute, Abel Ruiz converted a penalty to seal the deal for Spain.

Spain will now take on Iran, who defeated Mexico 2-1 in their match.

Tournament debutants Niger have developed self-belief to do well, said Ghana coach Samuel Fabin, who expects a tough challenge from the fellow Africans in Wednesday’s last-16 clash.

“It’s going to be tough definitely,” said Fabin. “They also have the belief. It will be a difficult match. We know each other well so well, so it’s going to be a bit difficult and tricky. But we will see it through.”

Niger coach Ismaila Tiemoko also expects a rough and tough encounter, and believes that his team do not start as the underdogs.

“We played two friendlies against Ghana before the African Nations Cup and lost both of them 2-0,” he said. “We learnt from them and when we met them in the tournament and lost on penalties. We are hoping for a victory.”

He did not agree with the suggestion that everyone expected Ghana to win against the tournament debutants and enter the quarters.

“I don’t think everyone has said Ghana will win. We have nothing to lose,” he said. “It will be rough and tough. But I also expect fair play and lots of good performances. It’s going to be a close match, that’s for sure. It’s going to be an open match.”

Ghana coach Fabin said nothing should be taken for granted as teams like Paraguay, who had won all their matches in the preliminary stage, lost badly in the round of 16 on Monday.

“Look at what is happening in the round of 16. Take for example Paraguay who won all their matches but look at yesterday. [Paraguay lost 0-5 to USA]. You have to be prepared and play at your best,” he said.

He also conceded that the expectations in Ghana were quite high.

“The expectations at home are huge. Any tournament we enter, they expect us to win. We try to do our best,” said the coach of the team, who had lost 0-1 to Mali in the continental finals to finish runner-up.

Defender Bismarck Owusu Terry said confidently that Ghana, who won the title in 1991 and 1995 and had reached four out of five finals in the 1990s, will go all out for victory and will achieve it too.

“The coach tells us you can do it and go all out for a win. That’s what we are going to do,” he said

Ghana have been lucky not to be distracted by scouts from clubs worldwide, said Fabin.

“As far as we are concerned, I have not seen any scouts. We are fortunate but I don’t know about other teams. So far there have been no distractions.”

Niger coach Tiemoko was of the opinion that the mental aspect would play a huge role in the game.

“It’s about mentality [of players], more than physical or tactical. We are going to fight till we have the energy. Our goal now is to reach the final. No team is here to lose. We have good hopes for the match,” he concluded.