Brazilian flair vs English grit

Brazil will have the Salt Lake Stadium crowd behind them, but in-form England are no pushovers

By Arindam Bandyopadhyay in Calcutta
  • Published 25.10.17
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GROUND REALITY: England’s Philip Foden at the Salt Lake Stadium training ground on Tuesday, the eve of their U-17 World Cup semi-final match against Brazil. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: When the majority of the 66,000-plus Salt Lake Stadium shouts for a team, it can definitely be counted as an advantage. Brazil will enjoy that support on Wednesday when they take on England in the first semi-final of the U-17 World Cup.

But all is not lost for England. Besides the fact that they have been in good form, the English boys can look back in history to find some inspiration. For that though, they have to go back more than five decades!

A last-minute venue switch due to soggy ground condition at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati saw the match shifted here, to the Salt Lake Stadium.

Interestingly, this shift of venue can prove to be lucky for the England team. The story goes back to 1966, the year England won the World Cup. The semi-final clash between England and Portugal was originally scheduled to be played at the Goodison Park. But the match was eventually shifted to Wembley. England went on to inflict a defeat on Portugal, who were having a great tournament till then. Will history repeat itself?

Fact is, the Salt Lake Stadium has been good to England in the ongoing tournament. They have played four matches at the venue, winning all. They will undoubtedly be comfortable playing the crunch match here, though one isn't sure how the young boys would react when a packed house will probably be supporting their opponents.

Brazil played their high-voltage quarter final here against Germany and were cheered to victory by the fans.

The teams did not have any training session on Monday. They had to fly to Calcutta from Guwahati, but made light of the hurried rescheduling. Both said they were happy to be back.

Brazil and England have both put up strong performances so far. England thrashed the US in the quarter finals, while Brazil scored an emphatic 2-1 victory against the Germans. The match is going be a contest between the two best attacking sides of the tournament.

Brazil's last outing here, against Germany, saw the largest turnout and Carlos Amadeu's team received huge crowd support. They are looking for a repeat on Wednesday.

Three-time champions Brazil, playing their seventh U-17 World Cup semi-final, are high on confidence after their morale-boosting quarters win. They would look to seal their fourth final berth.

The Brazil squad is full of young and exciting talent. The likes of Weverson, Paulinho and Lincoln can change the complexion of the game anytime. They proved that when they scripted the nail-biting come-from-behind victory against Germany. And it took them just seven minutes to turn the tables.

In goal, Brazil have Gabriel Brazao, who has saved 88.9 percent of the goal-bound shots. He is ready to give his best again.

Brazil would like to get an early goal and put pressure on the opposition. As Brazao made it clear a few days back, offence is their best defence.

On the other hand, England too are on a high. Their senior team has already qualified for next year's World Cup in Russia and the U-20 side had won the U-20 World Cup earlier this year. Now it is time for Steve Cooper's U-17 boys to write their names in the record book. For the record, this is the first time that England have made it to the semi-finals of the U-17 World Cup.

Jadon Sancho, the most talked-about player of England U-17 side during the group stages, was badly missed in the pre-quarter final against Japan, which was decided by a penalty shootout. But the team looks to have settled down. Rhian Brewster netted a hat-trick against the US and will be a key player against Brazil. The likes of Phil Foden, Callum Hudson-Odoi and George McEachran have made up for Sancho's absence with their collective effort.

Manchester United's Angel Gomes started in place of Sancho in the last game wearing the captain's armband and is expected to do the same against Brazil.

The only difference this time would be the atmosphere. Having so far revelled in the support of the fans here, England will have to cope up with the expected full house at the colossal venue vociferously supporting Brazil once again.

The Samba boys are the favourites. But then, a reverse in the game of football can never be ruled out.