A lesson or two for the thinktanks for the teams as they make all substitutions early, leaving the players grasping in the last 25-odd minutes.
It was the pain for Spain and kill from Brazil at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi in the Group opener on Saturday evening. While the players did their bit for the respective teams, the coaches have learnt a lesson or two in this part of India, as they made all the three substitutions early, leaving the players gasping for breath as the game progressed in humid conditions. Four players, two from each side, needed medical attention due to the humidity during the game at the Nehru Stadium.
It is a wakeup call for the other team’s think-tanks when they play in the coastal part of India as they can succumb to heat and humidity as it seemed in this first Group D encounter of the FIFA U17 World Cup. Although Spain had their fair share of ball possession, they failed to cut loose from the stubborn Brazilian defence.
Brazil were without their hottest prospect Vinicius Junior, but Lincoln and Paulinho struck at the right time. Although Spain struck the net first, Brazil had the last laugh. Brazil dominated the ball possession while Spain made their intentions clear with attacking soccer. Spain’s 11 corners compared to just one to Brazil was a clear indication to Spain’s attacking intent.
Lincoln struck to level the score after Mohamed Moukhliss had opened the scoring, and minutes before the halftime, Brazil made it 2-1 with Paulinho striking in the injury time as they took the break on a high. It was enthralling football between two giants of the game. While Spain dominated the early exchanges, Brazil came back well into the game and stamped their authority over it.
There were times of anxiety in the last few minutes of the first half. On one occasion, Lincoln charged like the Bull at the ball but Spain’s keeper Fernandez back passed, and fortunately for Spain and unfortunately for Brazil, the ball rebounded off Lincoln’s over the throw line.
Brazil may be dominating the proceedings, but Spain also had their moments. It was Spain’s Ferran Torres who dazzled the crowd, cutting loose from three defenders on one occasion, but the end result was not fruitful. While Torres was in the thick of action, Spain’s main bet Abel Ruiz seemed a little off colour.
The Kerala crowd did prove that football is their sport as they thronged the stadium to witness what was the best showdown of the two best teams, Brazil and Spain, who produced some firework days before Diwali.