Hosts and six-time champions Argentina will fancy being the favourites in their FIFA U20 World Cup Round of 16 duel with Nigeria in San Juan on Wednesday (today) night, but head coach Ladan Bosso says his team will not be intimidated by the physicality of the opponents and the capacity crowd expected at the venue.
The indigenes of the Land of Pampas barnstormed through their group stage, winning all their three matches against Uzbekistan, Guatemala and New Zealand, scoring 10 goals and conceding only one. They are already among the favourites for the title, by both pedigree and current form.
Despite winning their first two matches, including beating early ravemakers Italy in commanding fashion, the Flying Eagles lost to Brazil 2-0 in La Plata on Saturday and some bookmakers think they stand no chance against the pumped-up home team.
Bosso said on Tuesday, as his boys prepared for their official training session at match time (6pm Argentine time and 10pm Nigeria) that his Africa Cup of Nations bronze medallists will be ready to give as much as they receive in Wednesday’s encounter.
“This is the World Cup and it is wrong to underrate any team. We won two of our three matches and had the same number of points in our group as Brazil and Italy. We are no pushovers in this campaign.
“It is going to be an interesting game. We want the quarter-final ticket and the Argentines also want the quarter-final ticket. We will go in there and dig our feet into the ground.”
The young Albiceleste have only gone as far as the quarter-finals since last lifting the trophy in 2007.
And Bosso strongly believes his team have a chance against their opponents despite the hosts being the overwhelming favourites heading into the fixture.
“I think it is still open. Everybody can be there, and I believe we have the capacity to be there.
“We are into the knockout stage, and in the knockout stage, there is an approach we can employ for it, and we hope we’d have our plans executed accordingly.”
Meanwhile, Bosso is expected to recall Benjamin Fredricks to the starting line-up, while AC Milan U-19 star Victor Eletu is set to partner Daniel Daga in a double pivot in midfield.
Argentina coach Javier Mascherano will recall deadly trio Maximo Perrone, Valentin Carboni and Federico Redondo, who must be given special attention by the Flying Eagles defence.
Mascherano’s men are one of just two sides to finish the group stage with a 100 per cent record — the other being the USA — while their tally of 10 goals is only bettered by Ecuador, who scored nine in one game against Fiji to amass 11 in total.
The winners from today’s encounter will face either Ecuador or South Korea in the quarter-finals.