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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

FIFA U-17 World Cup: Brazil’s flair meets England’s resilience in thrilling semifinal

Traditional powerhouse Brazil will rely on their much-admired natural flair when they take on a resolute England in what promises to be a stirring semifinal contest of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

fifa-u17-world-cup-2017 Updated: Oct 24, 2017 23:28 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Brazil face England in the first FIFA U-17 World Cup semifinal encounter in Kolkata on Wednesday.
Brazil face England in the first FIFA U-17 World Cup semifinal encounter in Kolkata on Wednesday.(SAMIR JANA/HT PHOTO)

The only time England have beaten Brazil in a World Cup for men or boys was in the 2007 edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Brazil avenged it in 2015 but having achieved what the men have not in four meetings spread from 1958, the England boys are eyeing an encore in Kolkata on Wednesday. At stake is a berth in the final of the World Cup at the same venue on Saturday.

England have never been this far but have been one of the form teams of this tournament. “A semi-final against Brazil at such a magnificent stadium is without doubt, the biggest game for all of us. Everyone’s excited and we have nothing to fear,” said England coach Steve Cooper whose boys are now two games away from matching the U-20s who became world champions earlier this year. (LIVE STREAMING)

“The players being guaranteed a full duration of a World Cup means invaluable experience which will put them in a better place when they play a senior World Cup,” said Cooper.

England staying till the business end of a World Cup is as unscheduled as last week’s rain in Guwahati, going by weather reports of the past 10 years according to an official of the tournament’s local organising committee. But this bunch has shaken off the bogey of tie-breakers after coming within a kick of winning the European title and in Rhian Brewster, got a player with four goals from open play. It has also played four of its five games in Kolkata.

READ | FIFA U-17 World Cup: England, Brazil happy to be back in Kolkata for semifinal

That’s not an advantage, according to Carlos Amadeu, the Brazil coach but only after saying: “We would have liked to be here from our first game….”

England and Brazil have regularly met at U-15, U-17 and U-20 levels and the results have been more or less even, said Amadeu. “This is one of the best generations of youth players in the world and they should reap the benefits of this in the future,” he said of England.

Cooper returned the compliment, spoke about the individual skills of Brazilians but said: “Our first idea is about us; we like to play possession-based, attractive football and that won’t change.”

READ | FIFA U-17 World Cup: Clash of philosophies on cards in Mali vs Spain semifinal

In a match between attacking teams --- England have scored 15 goals, four more than Brazil --- it could be the defensive shape of teams that holds the key. Crucial to doing that for Brazil is Victor Bobsin, who plays in front of the back-four. “We expect to be strong in our defensive system but I am expecting an aggressive game from England,” he said.

Brazil haven’t conceded from open play yet; the two goals they took in came from set-pieces. England have but shipped only three. “This match is totally in the balance,” said Amadeu.

What may not be in balance is the support. England could feel like an away team on Wednesday. “We will try to win them over by doing what we do. We will thrive on it,” said Cooper.

First Published: Oct 24, 2017 23:27 IST