Good afternoon! Thank you so much for joining Sports Mole for the first of today's Under-20 World Cup semi-finals as France take on Ghana. Let's get straight down to business.
We'll start by looking at France, who go into this game as many people's favourites to win the tournament following Spain's exit in the last round. The French have certainly impressed so far in the knockout phase, culminating in their 4-0 win over Uzbekistan in the quarters. In truth, it could have and perhaps should have been even more for France and, if there were one criticism to be made of them in that match it is that they were wasteful in front of goal. Strange to say after a 4-0 win!
They began the tournament against today’s opponents – Ghana. On that occasion it was France who came out on top relatively comfortably, beating the Africans 3-1. They followed this up with a disappointing 1-1 draw with USA before falling to their first defeat of the tournament at the hands of Spain, who triumphed 3-1.
As I mentioned earlier, however, it is in the knockout rounds that France have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. They easily saw off tournament hosts Turkey 4-1 in the round of 16 before that 4-0 win over Uzbekistan sealed their spot in the last four.
They may take some encouragement from the fact that they were the only side who didn't need extra time to reach the semi-finals and having played in the first quarter-final, they should have had plenty more time to recover than Ghana.
Speaking of Ghana, it's about time we looked at the African side. They have certainly provided us with a lot of entertainment in the tournament so far, and that was especially evident in the last round. They had a mind-boggling 41 shots on the way to the most dramatic of wins against Chile, scoring with the last kick (or head, as the case was) of the match to beat their South American opponents 4-3. It was a thrilling game and hopefully they'll put on a similar show this afternoon!
Elsewhere in the tournament so far, Ghana will be looking for revenge following their 3-1 loss to France in the opening match. They must have thought that their tournament was as good as over when they also lost their second match - a 1-0 defeat to Spain - but a 4-1 win over USA in their final group game saw them scrape through to the knockout round by the skin of their teeth.
Once they made the knockout round, though, they weren't going to go without a fight. The highly-fancied and free-scoring Portugal were dispatched 3-2 in the round of 16 before that 4-3 classic against Chile on Sunday.
They did pay a significant price for their passage through to the last four, however. Joseph Attamah
, captain Lawrence Lartey
and 16-year-old Moses Odjer
, who scored the opening goal for Ghana in the last round, are all suspended for today's match. France, meanwhile, are at full strength and previous yellow cards have now been wiped, so only a red will see anyone miss the final or third place playoff.
If this is your first time following either of these two teams, we are expecting goals today. France are the highest scorers in the tournament with 13 goals, while Ghana are the second top scorers still left in having netted 12 times. Both teams managed four goals in their last game, and no-one has had more shots than these two teams either. Ghana have had 114 efforts on goal so far, including those 41 against Chile, while France are second with 86. The main difference, however, is the difference record. Ghana have conceded 10 goals, more than anyone left in the competition, while France have only conceded five times.
Ghana have plenty of history in this tournament, though. They won it in 2009, beating Brazil on penalties, and finished as runners-up in 1993 and 2001. France, meanwhile, are bidding to reach their first ever Under-20 World Cup final.
FRANCE STARTING XI: Areola; Foulquier, Zouma, Umtiti, Digne; Pogba, Kondogbia, Veretout; Thauvin, Sanogo, Bahebeck
GHANA STARTING XI: Antwi; Baba, M Baba, Addico; Duncan, Salifu, Abaogye, Anaba; Acheampong, Ashia, Assifuah
PREDICTION: We're five minutes from kickoff, which means that it is time for my match prediction! Ghana are a very unpredictable side and they are certainly capable of springing an upset this afternoon. However, I think France will come out on top in the end. Ghana won't make it easy for them, but I'm going for a 4-2 win for the French.
As far as players to watch are concerned, France have Paul Pogba of Juventus and top scorer Yaya Sanogo
- who has just joined Arsenal - in their ranks. Ghana will also have to be aware of wingers Thauvin and Bahebeck who were instrumental against Uzbekistan. Digne is a fine left-back who likes to get forward, while Kondogbia has the ability to run the midfield given enough time.
For Ghana, meanwhile, they will be looking to Acheampong to provide their main threat. He was brilliant against Chile and is a real danger to defences. Assifuah has netted four times so far in the tournament, making his joint second in the overall scorers list alongside Sanogo. Abaogye can also create plenty of chances if he is given the space.
The referee today is Nawaf Shukralla from Bahrain.
KICKOFF: France get us underway in the first of today's semi-finals. Who will reach the final?
France have made a positive start to this match, and they have the first shot of the game early on. Some nice link-up play between Pogba and Veretout sees Thauvin pick up the ball, but he is forced wide and his shot is tame and easy for Antwi.
Acheampong is almost away for the first time, but his shot is closer to the corner flag. It didn't work out for him that time but France can't afford him that much space.
SHOT! That's the first really meaningful shot we've had today. Pogba picks up the ball on the edge of the area and tries to curl one into the corner, but it goes the wrong side of the post from a French perspective.
CHANCE! Big chance for France and I'm not quite sure how that hasn't ended in the back of the net. Digne is fed the ball as he bursts into the box and his first shot is well saved by Antwi. The ball squirms away from the Ghana keeper and Digne swings another leg at it, but Antwi is there again before finally collecting at the third time of asking.
CHANCE! We expected goals, and if it carries on like this it won't be long before we have one. A promising Ghana attack breaks down and immediately France break. Bahebeck is released behind the defence, but he tries to curl it past the keeper at the near post and only succeeds in putting it wide. He should have done better there.
France are definitely on top at the moment. They are pouring forward in numbers whenever they get the ball, and Ghana are struggling to deal with it. The first corner of the match is cleared to the edge of the box where Umtiti is waiting, but he blazes it well over the bar.
A clash of heads provides a brief respite for Ghana, who have been under pressure in the opening 10 minutes. They are very dangerous on the counter attack, however, so France need to be wary about committing too many men forward.
CHANCE! It's another good chance for France, but Antwi is again their to deny them. Digne gets forward once more, reaching the byline before pulling the ball back to Sanogo. His first effort is well blocked but the ball falls back to him and he tries to sneak it in at the near post. However Antwi, who dived in anticipation of the first effort, does well to get up and save the second attempt.
Antwi is certainly being kept busy at the moment. French Young Player of the Year Florian Thauvin
lets fly from around 25 yards out and his shot is going into the top corner until Antwi makes a flying save to tip it behind. It was a nice height for the keeper, but still a good save.
From the resulting corner Pogba seems to have a clear header in a very good position, but he must have taken his eye off the ball as he completely missed it! That could go down as a missed chance.
Ghana will never give up, even when they are coming under such heavy pressure. Assifuah chases what seems to be a lost cause and shows great strength to get a shot away despite close attention from Zouma, but his effort flashes across the face of goal.
They will also throw themselves in the way of anything. France have a decent chance to shoot from the edge of the box, but Addico makes two good blocks in quick succession.
A poor pass from Ghana allows Thauvin to pick up the ball and run at the defence. He gives the ball to Sanogo, who takes on his man and finds space to shoot, but his effort is blocked and falls comfortably into the arms of Antwi.
YELLOW CARD! The standard of refereeing has been very good in this competition so far, and this is another good call. Thauvin races past his man on the edge of the box before throwing himself to the floor under the slightest of touches. He is correctly shown a yellow card for simulation.
Pogba dinks a cute little ball into the box and Foulquier looks to race on to it. Antwi is out bravely to collect, however, and he takes a knock for his troubles and is currently being seen to by the physio. Get the magic sponge on that one!
Bahebeck is also struggling, and has been since that earlier clash of heads. France are doing everything they can to keep him out there, though. He is a real dangerman and would be a big loss if he was unable to continue.
Anaba has gone down clutching his face after an apparent off-the-ball incident with Digne. Replays show that the France full-back put an arm across Anaba's chest to obstruct his forward run, but there is no need for such a dramatic reaction from the stand-in Ghana skipper.
Pogba has been involved a lot in this opening half an hour or so. He chips another pass into the path of Thauvin, who reaches the byline before pulling the ball back. Antwi is there again, however, stretching out an arm to cut out the cross.
Assifuah whips a dangerous ball into the box, right into the fabled 'corridor of uncertainty', but no-one has gambled and the danger passes.
Pogba is again involved, but this time it isn't as productive as usual. He goes for goal from all of 35 yards out but drags his shot harmlessly wide.
France are racking up the shot count in this game. Sanogo is the latest to have a go, but his strike lacked power and was straight at Antwi, who gathered with ease.
Sanogo has another shot, but this one is never going to trouble Antwi. Kondogbia chips a ball into the Arsenal striker, who holds off a man before volleying it goalwards, only to see it fly well wide.
One criticism that could be made of these Under-20 sides, particularly these two, is that they shoot whenever they are anywhere near the penalty area. Taking that last effort as an example, Sanogo would have been better suited passing it backwards to try to set up a better chance, but he lashed at it early. I'm sure Arsene Wenger will have something to say about that habit!
Again, France fire a speculative effort at goal. You have to admire Pogba's confidence to go for goal from 35 yards again, but perhaps it isn't wise as again he puts it well wide. It's almost like France are trying to beat Ghana's tally of 41 shots in their last match!
Acheampong just threatened to break clear there, but he was stopped by a Pogba foul. Perhaps a harsh decision as the France captain appeared only to use his strength, but you can understand why the foul was given.
More worryingly for Ghana, Acheampong is being taken off on a stretcher now. That would be a huge loss for them if he is unable to continue.
The match has become a little scrappy in the last few moments as both sides are committing foul after foul. The good news for Ghana, however, is that Acheampong is able to continue.
Thauvin finds space on the edge of the area again, but he can't find the target as he curls his effort a yard or two over the bar. France don't seem to have brought their shooting boots today, but if they keep this pressure up surely it is only a matter of time before they score.
YELLOW CARD! Umtiti is shown a yellow card for a bodycheck on Acheampong, who had knocked the ball past the central defender and was looking to race on to it.
GOAL! France 1-0 Ghana (Florian Thauvin)
That is a lovely goal from France! Thauvin picks up the ball about halfway inside the Ghana half before running straight at the defence. He plays a one-two with Bahebeck, whose return pass found the winger clean through on goal. Thauvin showed very good composure to take it round Antwi before rolling it into the empty net. Advantage France!
CLOSE! Ghana almost hit back immediately! Ashia does well to hold the ball up until support arrives in the shape of Baba, who clips a good ball into the area. Acheampong isn't the tallest player in the box but he rises highest to flick a header just over the bar.
There will be three minutes of added time.
HALF TIME: France 1-0 Ghana
There goes the half-time whistle and it is France who go into the break ahead thanks to that late goal from Florian Thauvin. Ghana can have no complaints really. The goal had been coming and France deserve to be ahead after that first half. We have seen glimpses from Ghana but nothing like what they provided against Chile in the last round, while France have had a lot of speculative efforts, but also a few very good chances.
France have just edged the possession stats, but their shot count has been skewed a bit by all of the long-range efforts. Ghana are still very much in this game, but they need to get the likes of Assifuah and Acheampong in the game more.
As things stand, though, France are on their way through to their first ever Under-20 World Cup final, and deservedly so. They will take some stopping in the final, and they have a few players in this current crop that will surely go on to do well in the senior side.
As for Ghana, they have 45 minutes to stay in the competition. The crowd in this stadium is mostly full of Ghana fans, so if they can produce an atmosphere to inspire their side then it could make a significant difference. Ultimately, though, it is down to the 11 men on the field in white, and they haven't really done enough yet.
Right, the players are on their way back out for the second half. In 45 minutes we could well have our first finalist. Ghana will need a big effort to ensure that it is them, while France will be looking to carry on what they were doing in that first half.
GHANA SUB: The half doesn't get off to the best start for Ghana, however. Before it has even begun, goalkeeper Eric Antwi is unable to continue, so Michael Sai comes on at the break.
KICKOFF: Ghana get us back underway in this second half.
GOAL! France 1-1 Ghana (Ebenezer Assifuah)
What a start to this second half for Ghana! It is Assifuah again as he becomes the tournament's joint-top scorer with a stunning strike. He picks the ball up about 25 yards from goal before finding his way past two defenders and hammering his shot past Areola, who was rooted to the spot as he watched the ball come off the post and in.
Ghana look like a different team in the early stages of this half. Again Assifuah causes problems as he runs at the defence before being tripped from behind. Ghana now have a free kick in a good position, around 27 yards from goal.
SAVE! It takes an age for the free kick to actually be taken, but it is worth the wait. Acheampong curls it over the wall and it looks set to nestle in the top corner before Areola gets across to tip it over. Good save.
SAVE! Another good save from Areola! Anaba rises highest to meet a header from a corner, but the French keeper makes another diving save to concede another corner.
From that corner Areola comes to claim the ball but completely misses it. He gets away with it, however, as the eventual header ends up over the bar.
PENALTY SHOUT! It is all Ghana at the moment! Acheampong makes his way down the right flank and pulls a dangerous low ball into the box. Assifuah is racing to meet it but goes down in a heap under the challenge of a France defender before he can get to the ball. The ref waves away the protests, but that could have easily been given.
We've had 10 minutes of the second half, and it has been a period dominated by Ghana. France are yet to get going since the break, and they are in danger of falling behind if they don't get a foothold in this one soon.
France are doing the right thing now. They have taken control of the ball for a brief spell and are just knocking it about in their own half. That will halt Ghana's momentum and also let them settle themselves in the second half.
The 10-minute burst by Ghana at the start of this half has seemingly stopped now as the game enters a bit of a lull. It is being broken up by niggly fouls.
Duncan lines up a free kick from 35 yards out, but he smashes it a long, long way over the bar. They probably would have been better served floating that one into the box.
Ashia picks up the ball on the edge of the area before trying to thread a pass through to Acheampong, who would have been in on goal. The pass is slightly too heavy, however, and Acheampong is forced wide where he wins a corner that comes to nothing.
Baba Mensah has an early onset of cramp here. He will be hoping that it doesn't go to extra time if he is getting cramp already!
France's most promising moment of the second half so far sees Veretout play a one-two before running the ball at the heart of the Ghana defence. He moves it on to his left foot to create space to shoot, but his sliced effort ends up high and wide.
YELLOW CARD! Aboagye makes a positive run forward before eventually being felled by Bahebeck about 25 yards from goal. Bahebeck gets a booking for his troubles but, more importantly, Ghana have a free kick in a very good position...
...Kennedy Ashia takes the shot on, but his tame effort hits the wall. That was a waste.
CHANCE! Oh how has that not ended up in the back of the net! Acheampong does what he does best, dribbling his way to the byline inside the area, before smashing a low ball across the face of goal hoping for any sort of touch. Anaba manages to react quickly enough to stick a leg out, but he can't direct it in as it ends up flashing just wide.
France break quickly from a Ghana corner, but they should make a lot more of the chance they are given. Bahebeck sends the ball across to an unmarked Kondogbia, but he can't take it in his stride. He eventually finds Sanogo, whose snapshot only finds the side netting.
GOAL! France 2-1 Ghana (Florian Thauvin)
Thauvin has his second of the match, and it is another smart finish from the winger. He picks up the ball on the right wing before cutting inside his man and into the area. He heads back towards the edge of the box before flashing a low shot past Sai at the near post.
SAVE! Ghana almost respond straight away, but they are denied by a fine Areola save as he dives to his left to tip Assifuah's shot away.
Ashia likes a long shot, we saw that in the last game, but he rarely threatens with them. He gets this last one on target, but it is at a comfortable height for Areola who collects with ease.
You certainly shouldn't rule Ghana out here. They have scored the majority of their goals past the 75-minute mark in this tournament.
RED CARD! Samuel Umtiti Big moment in this match! Umtiti appears to swing an arm at Assifuah and the referee speaks to his linesman before showing the defender a second yellow card. That is harsh on Umtiti, who would now miss the final should France hold out in the final 10 minutes.
GHANA SUB: Yiadom Boakye, who plys his trade for Juventus at club level, comes on for Ashia. That is a like-for-like replacement, but a wise one I think as Boakye is more likely to come up with something special.
FRANCE SUB: France respond with a change of their own to plug the gap left by Umtiti at the back. Two-goal hero Thauvin comes off for Mouhmadou Sarr.
YELLOW CARD! That is another harsh decision from the ref as Anaba is shown a yellow card for a sliding tackle on Zouma, who was breaking free. The stand-in Ghana skipper appeared to catch the player, but he also got a bit of the ball so can feel hard done by there.
France are just six minutes away from a place in their first ever Under-20 World Cup final, but they are down to 10 men. Can they hold out against the late-goal specialists of Ghana?
Ghana are starting to crank up the pressure now and France are being forced into a number of long, aimless clearances.
FRANCE SUB: Another defensive sub from France as Mario Lemina replaces Bahebeck. Lemina is a midfielder by trade, but won't get forward as much as Bahebeck.
The referee is being very trigger-happy with his whistle at the moment. That is benefiting France as the game is being broken up and Ghana are either being forced to start again from a free kick, or France are getting the chance to clear their lines.
There will be three minutes of added time, can Ghana get another dramatic late goal?
SAVE! They almost do exactly that! Assifuah gets the ball on the edge of the box and his first touch sets it up nicely for a volley. His effort is at the middle of the goal but looping in, forcing Areola to make a fine fingertip save.
FULL TIME: France 2-1 Ghana
FRANCE ARE THROUGH TO THE FINAL OF THE UNDER-20 WORLD CUP!
France manage to hold out with just 10 men to reach their first ever Under-20 World Cup final. You have to say that they probably deserved it overall. They dominated the first half and, although Ghana came back strongly in the second, France still managed a few chances of their own. They will now go into the final to face either Iraq or Uruguay.
Commiserations to Ghana. It is a shame to see them lose this match, they would have been great fun to watch in the final! That isn't it from them in this competition, however, as they will face the loser of our second semi-final in the third-place playoff on Saturday.
Right, that's it from me this afternoon. Thank you for joining Sports Mole
for what was an entertaining match between two free-flowing teams. France will be the happier of the two sides having reached the final, but Ghana gave them a tough match. I will leave you with Jack Prescott's match report
, and be sure to join us again in around half an hour for the second semi-final between Iraq and Uruguay. Until then, goodbye!