France U20 vs. Uzbekistan U20 (Saturday, July 6, 11.00 a.m. ET)
The final eight teams in FIFA's Under-20 World Cup battle it out this weekend and the first of those four ties sees a talented French side take on one of the tournament's surprise packages in Uzbekistan.
With Portugal's surprise exit at the hands of Ghana, France are one of the two more fancied sides to lift the trophy, along with Spain.
Few expect them to have too much trouble with their opponents this Saturday, although Uzbekistan will know they have nothing to lose going into the match.
Path to the Quarterfinals
Despite possessing a squad permeated with prestigious young talent, France somewhat limped their way through their group. They dispatched Ghana 3-1 in their first game, but were sloppy in a 1-1 draw with USA and lost out 2-1 to Spain in the final clash.
Four points still saw them finish second, which provided them with a potential banana skin in last 16 against tournament hosts Turkey. Despite fervent home support, Les Bleus looked a far more fluent unit and ran away with a convincing 4-1 win.
In their group, Uzbekistan eased past New Zealand 3-0, earned a creditable 1-1 draw with Croatia before suffering a heavy 4-0 loss to Uruguay.
A third-place finish landed them a tough last 16 tie against a strong Greek squad that included many players from last summers' Under-19 European Championships, where they impressively finished as runners-up. After an especially demoralising loss in their previous fixture against Uruguay, Uzbekistan's 3-1 win came as quite a surprise to many.
Several players stand out in the French side, from their high calibre midfield pairing of Geoffrey Kondogbia and Paul Pogba, to Arsenal's new signing, Yaya Sanogo, in attack.
However the French have looked their best with both full-backs in full flow. Left-back Lucas Digne and the lesser-known right-back Dimitri Foulquier have been constant threats in attack, overloading the opposition in the final third. Look out for both players to appear in advanced positions throughout this contest, which may prove the difference.
Igor Sergeev is perhaps Uzbekistan's most notable player. The striker managed nine goals in 14 games at Under-19 level and has impressed in this tournament, notching up another two goals in the process.
If Uzbekistan hope to land another shock, they will need their front man to continue his fine form and preferably grab them an early lead to hold on to.
With France's nine and Uzbekistan's seven, both sides have shown a consistent goalscoring touch and rank in the top six (of the tournament's 24 teams) in terms of goals scored—which should lead to an entertaining contest.
Yaya Sanogo is top scorer for the French with three goals, while Uzbekistan have Sergeev along with Sardor Rakhmonov and Abbosbek Makhstaliev on two goals.
In terms of leading assists, midfielder Makhstaliev has two for his country, while Kondogbia also has two for his.
France (72) and Uzbekistan (69) are the second and third most penalised sides at the tournament in terms of fouls, meaning this weekend's game could prove a rather feisty spectacle.
There's simply too much talent in this French squad to comprehend another win for Uzebekistan, although Ahmadjon Musaev's side certainly have the firepower to get on the scoresheet at some stage.
France 3-1 Uzbekistan
Statistics via FIFA
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