Football fans in Kerala are disappointed that they will not be watching their beloved Brazil taking on the German war machine in the 2017 U17 Fifa World Cup India quarter final fixture on October 22.
Of course they had the chance of a lifetime to cheer their heart out for the Samba Boys on October 18 in the last pre-quarter match at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi, egging on their favourite team to a decisive 3-0 victory over Honduras. Throughout the match the Hondurans must have been wondering whether they were playing the Brazilians in Brazil, such being the flood of yellow jerseys that set the stands awash.
Now that most big names of world football are through to the round of 8, the stage is set for blockbuster matches.
Some fans may be disappointed that France and Japan fell by the wayside, but there is obviously more fan following for Spain and England that went through in their place respectively.
France did put up a fight, but Spain had the edge and they won 2-1. The Japanese made up with pace and ball control what they lacked in height and bulk against England. It must have been heart breaking for many fans in Kerala to see Japan go out on penalties (5-3) after remaining locked goalless in the regulation time.
Looking ahead, the all-African fixture of Ghana and Mali on October 21 in the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Guwahati at 5pm is the first. On the same day, the Anglo Saxon bust-up between United States and England in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa at 8pm will fan old flames of friction.
So the soccer-mad Kerala gets to watch Spain battle it out against the irrepressible Iran on October 22 at 5pm in Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium – even though their hearts will be rooting mad for Brazil, who would play Germany in Kolkata’s Salt Lake Stadium at 8pm the same day. Let us not forget that Germany also have a sizeable following in Kerala, especially among the teenagers who have grown up watching the exploits of Bayern Munich and the likes of Miroslav Klose, Thomas Mueller and star goalkeeper Manual Neuer.
Spain will be careful taking on the dark horses of this tournament, Iran, who have the potential to beat the best on their day. Iran showed this by blanking out the much-written-about Germany 4-0 in their second group match – it being the only match that Germans have so far lost. Coming to think of it, a 4-0 drubbing does not happen every day to Germany and there are not very many teams what have done that to the European power house in quite a long time, even in this U17 level.
Picking out the line up for the semi-finals – matches in Guwahati and Mumbai on October 25, ahead of the third-place match and final on October 28 in Kolkata – from a clutch of teams that have many unknown quantities in their folds is indeed difficult. An assessment is possible only on the basis of their current foam though all teams have shown flashes of brilliance and some sheer mediocre displays.
Iran’s quarter final match against Spain will be of extreme interest to Kerala fans, not just because Kochi is the venue. After what happened to Germany in their group match, no team will take the lion-hearted Iranians lightly. Iran is also one of the highest scoring teams having hammered 12 goals into the opponents’ nets which include the 4 without reply against fancied Germany and 3 without reply against Costa Rica. Iran, which is the one of the only three teams that have not tasted defeat so far, have conceded only 2 goals up till this stage showing their good defence.
Spain lost their first group match against Brazil 1-2 but have since maintained a winning run including the 2-1 win against their European neighbours France. Spain has shown they can indeed score freely by drilling 9 goals into opponent’s nets, but their defence at times has shown vulnerability, having conceded 3. So the prediction tends towards Iranians though the Spanish flair tends to flare up at the right moment in big match stages.
The Brazil-Germany match promises to be one of the most keenly watched fixtures. Up to this point in the tournament, the teams have scored 9 goals each. But Brazilian defence seems to be more solid having conceded only one goal so far against six by Germans. But the German lads recovered well from a 0-4 thrashing by Iran in the second group match to beat Colombia 4-0 in the pre-quarter tie. Still Brazil has the edge, considering their solidity in defence and playmaking ability that helps them dominate the middle. Brazil were master class against Honduras in the last-16 stage, pocketing the fixture by 3-0. Brazil does have an edge going by their performance so far, but Germany has recovered well from their 4-0 drubbing by the Persian lions. Yet, it may fall short before the slick Samba runs.
Though USA lost to Colombia 1-3 in the final group encounter, they have since bounced back with a 5-0 thrashing of Paraguay in the pre-quarter fixtures. So, the USA will be a condiment side taking on Transatlantic ally England in the quarter final. The Yankees have also scored 10 goals so far, conceding only 3. England come into the quarters without tasting defeat, though Japan gave them a tough time in the pre-quarter fixture with the match tied goalless in regulation. The fabled England side needed a shootout to edge out the lowly Japan. This must be affecting their morale a little bit in the ‘friendly’ Anglo Saxon fixture. USA colts have the big chance to show the world they need not always play second fiddle to their erstwhile colonisers even in the soccer pitch. USA have a slight edge though England may not be a pushover.
In the all-African fixture is between the side that scored the most number of goals and the one that scored the least. Mali scored 13 as against Ghana’s 7. But Ghana look the more solid side having conceded only 1 goal against Mali’s 5, which is the most for any team on the quarter-final lineup. Both lost one outing each in the group stage, Ghana to USA (0-1) and Mali to Paraguay (2-3). The pre-quarter outings of the two teams brought out the characteristic differences in their styles of play. Ghana won against Niger 2-0 while Mali blitzkrieg trounced Iraq 5-1. It will be interesting to watch the clash to two diametrically opposing styles.
India went out all guns blazing, but there is much fun left in this tournament for true football fans.