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Five U17 World Cup knockout round matches to watch

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As the Fifa U17 World Cup enjoys two rest days ahead of the knockout stages, beginning tomorrow, John McAuley looks at some of the most tantalising matches in the last 16.

1. Italy v Mexico, tomorrow, Abu Dhabi: Mexico guaranteed their progress with victory against Sweden in their final Group F fixture, and the reigning champions will be intent to now prove their tournament credentials. Yet a match against Italy is no easy contest, especially as they have conceded only two goals in three games.

 

2. Japan v Sweden, tomorrow, Sharjah: Two of the surprise packages clash with perhaps Sweden ruing the last-16 draw most. Japan have been a delight with a game built on crisp, incisive passing carrying them to three victories. Sweden, though, have impressed, too, thumping Iraq 4-1 before holding Nigeria in a six-goal thriller.

3. Brazil v Russia, tomorrow, Abu Dhabi: Poor Russia. They may have come into the tournament as European champions, and they did thrash Venezuela 4-0 in their last Group D assignment, but they now face arguably the competitionís finest side. Brazil, the three-time U17 world champions, have looked major contenders for an unprecedented fourth title, scoring 15 goals in three matches.

 

4. Morocco v Ivory Coast, Tuesday, Fujairah: Upon seeing his Panama side beaten by Morocco on Thursday, coach Jorge Dely Valdes predicted his teamís conquerors would make the semi-finals. However, they meet the African champions, with Ivory Coast eager to finally live up to their pre-tournament billing.

 

5. Nigeria v Iran, Tuesday, Al Ain: If Brazil are deemed title favourites, then Nigeria seem the greatest threat to their aspirations. The west Africans started by thrashing Mexico 6-1, and continued to score freely with eight goals in their next two matches. In contrast, Iran found the net only three times, but it was enough to finish second in Group E.