Little Canaries not stepping off the gas
While the samba party is set to continue in the State, Niger are eager to upset the Brazilian applecart. Form and history are with Brazil and the Goan crowd is expected to be as well.
Story: BAS | L SYLVESTER P | 13th October 2017, 07:24 Hrs
But at this level of competition, an African side cannot be discounted. Given the fact that Niger, the debutants, defeated the defending champions and five-time winners Nigeria in their continental qualifiers, the match-up on Friday evening at Nehru Stadium provides the ingredients for enthralling action from both ends.
In the absence of star striker Vinicius Jr, the attacking trio of Little Canaries -- Lincoln, Paulinho and Brenner -- has come to the fore. Brazil may have secured their berth in the Round of 16 with back-to-back victories against European U-17 champions Spain (2-1) as well as a doughty Korea DPR outfit (2-0), but head coach Carlos Amadeu concedes that their frontline has to strap up their socks to measure up to the level of competition approaching the knock-out stages.
"Against Spain in the first half, we had almost 66 percent ball possession, while against Korea DPR we had 70 percent ball control through the game. Korea DPR was playing a sit-back defence line, like parking the bus. They were really very organized in the system. We could only infiltrate a few times but could not score," the coach said of their last game. "What is more difficult is creating opportunities that we did, but we just needed to be more relaxed while finishing - to shoot the goal," Amadeu who helmed the side to the title in the 2016 BRICS U-17 Football Cup here last year affirmed. Given that their last group match serves as only of academic interest, Amadeu didmissed the idea his team will take the foot off the pedal. "You can expect us to play with maximum force. We may have a player with a yellow card (Alan de Souza Guimarães) and barring him perhaps, we will start with our strongest team," Amadeu forewarned.
Brazil may have won the FIFA U-17 World Cup thrice, but they respect the opposition as others do to their beautiful presentation of the game on and off the field. "I came into this World Cup, prepared with many formations of most of the teams we have played before. Spain is playing really beautiful football with a totally organised system. England as well have the desire to win. USA has a very strong collective football system. Paraguay is a team we could not beat in our South American qualifiers. African teams have a real strong tradition at this level and the French cannot be forgotten. But it is Spain and England that impress me the most," Amadeu while giving his opinion on the likely frontrunners of the competition stated.
Meanwhile, Niger coach Ismaila Tiemoko asserted that no opposition can take the debuting side lightly, even if it were a three-time winner of the tournament. "We respect Team Brazil but it must be said that we are playing a youth tournament. Their set of youth players are playing the World Cup for the first time just as we are," the Junior Menas gaffer said.
Looking at the larger picture, the Niger coach explained that the U-17 World Cup is a part of a developmental process in a roadmap ahead. "For us, this tournament is more than important. In 2019, we are going to host the U-20 African Cup and the team that we have right now will be representing Niger at that level. Niger has nothing to lose here and the experience gained in this tournament will help them to prepare for the U-20 African Cup," Tiemoko explained.