Kolkata is in for another rollicking fixture in the Fifa Under-17 World Cup on Wednesday as Brazil return to the site of their quarter-final victory over Germany to try and claim another European scalp. England have the task of trying to stop the boys in yellow from reaching the final for the first time since 2005.
Steve Cooper and his young Lions have entered uncharted territory as England have reached the last four of a Under-17 World Cup final for the first time. It has been a glorious summer for the young English sides as Cooper’s boys look to emulate the Under-20 World Cup winning side and the Under-19 Euro winners.
“We will definitely take motivation and inspiration from what the English teams did in the summer, even what we did in the summer – we got to the last kick of an Euro final and in a tournament where we we dominated and played well,” Cooper said.
“When you come to a World Cup, there is more pressure – it’s natural. We want more pressure, it’s a World Cup we want these players to get used to it.”
For Brazil, it was a narrow escape against Germany in the quarters as they trailed 0-1 up until the 71st minute, only to net two goals in seven minutes to knock the Europeans out. Coach Carlos Amadeu, who had brought Weverson on to change the game, rubbished any suggestions that moving to Guwahati and back would be a disruptive influence on his team.
“The only thing I can say is that we are really happy to play in a World Cup, to play here in India,” he said. “So we are really happy to play with this decision – nothing will take away from our smile. The worst would be if we were Brazil without playing in a World Cup.”
Brazil have been in good defensive nick too, and are yet to let in a goal from open play – both the goals they have conceded have come from set pieces. Yet, Germany stifled them in their quarter-final, cutting access off to their midfield, not allowing attacks to be initiated.
Cooper will have to make a choice on whether to focus on Brazil’s midfield or their prolific three-man forward line of Lincoln, Paulinho and Brenner, who have notched nine goals among them this season.
For England, Jadon Sancho’s absence from the team has meant that others have stepped up to take the Borussia Dortmund youngster’s place. In their last game against the USA, it was Rhian Brewster scoring a hat-trick against a formidable opponent, and the Liverpool lad’s form will be key to England going forward.
The English certainly have the quality to trouble the Brazilians, and they will aim to push forward against a defence that looked uncertain at times. Phil Foden, of Manchester City and Pep Guardiola tutelage, will provide the base upon which the attack is expected to thrive.
Another interesting battle to watch out for will be Callum Hudson-Odoi versus Alan. Hudson-Odoi has great pace in midfield and is the engine of this English core, next to Foden. Alan, the diminutive No 10, has provided three assists so far and is a treat to watch with the ball. Reports have emerged in the previous days that Real Madrid have snapped up the 17-year-old from parent club Palmeiras.
These teams have faced off against each other two times at this level, with the games split evenly between the two sides. In 2007, with a team that consisted of Danny Welbeck, Victor Moses and Henri Lansbury, England defeated Brazil 2-1. In Chile 2015, Brazil won courtesy of a goal via Leandro.
Barring Mali, these two teams have been the best in attack, scoring 26 goals between them. Brazil haven’t scored more than three goals in game except against Honduras, while England have been quietly efficient in attack, scoring at a rate of three goals per game.
In the end, a quiet word about penalties. Brazil haven’t faced any penalties yet but England have, in their round-of-16 win against Japan. As with Germany providing the template for stopping Brazil, a Canarinha will draw inspiration from Japan thwarting the English over 90 minutes.
The English coach seemed to have summed up the momentous occasion in the best possible manner: “This semi-final against Brazil is in a magnificent venue like this and without doubt the biggest game for all of us – everything to be excited about, nothing to fear. We have to smile, we have to stick to our plan and give it all we’ve got and believe in ourselves.”