U20 Women’s World Cup: Nigeria's athleticism scares France coach Haziraj

Chris Danjuma - FalconetsGetty

France U20 coach Sonia Haziraj stated that her side must be at their best to match Nigeria.

The Little Blues begin their Fifa U20 Women’s World Cup campaign against the Falconets who are eyeing their maiden world title.

Both teams go neck-to-neck at the Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, San Jose - with victory boosting either chance of reaching the knockout stage.

Speaking ahead of the Group C encounter, the former midfielder talked up the Africans’ abilities and the threat they could pose on Thursday evening.

“I’m extremely wary of Nigeria. I have massive respect for the African game and Nigeria have a number of players who possess real quality,” Haziraj told the Fifa website.

“The Nigerians always get out of their group at the youth tournaments. I’ve watched them and they’re a well-drilled, hard-working side. 

“They have great pace and are very athletic, and we’ll have to be ready to match them in that respect.”

France are making their eighth appearance at the global football showpiece, with a runners-up finish (2016) their best outing to date. 

To stand a chance of qualifying for the next stage, they must negotiate their way past the Nigerians, Canada and South Korea - which their manager predicted would not be easy.

“As for Canada, they’re a solid side. When I look at the teams we faced in the Sud Ladies Cup, I can see parallels with the sides we’ll come up against in Costa Rica,” she continued.

“USA, with their pace and direct attacking play, are similar to Nigeria, whilst the Netherlands are very much like the Canadians in that they’re really disciplined, athletic and afford you very little in the way of space. 

“When it comes to the South Koreans, we haven’t got too much of an insight. What we do know is that, just like all Asian teams, they’re a very tough side, a strong unit and cover a lot of ground.”

She has also set her sights on emerging as world champion after the final billed for August 28.

She added: “We’ve got some top players and so our target is clearly to go all the way and win the competition. 

“That’s not to sound arrogant, it’s just that we’ve got players with real quality who’re capable of operating in completely different systems from one game to the next. That element of unpredictability is one of our strengths.”

France coach Haziraj wary of ‘very athletic’ Nigeria

France or Nigeria: Who will win on Thursday?