FIFA U-17 WC: Brazil trumps Spain in a thrilling encounter

In a Group D encounter between football giants Brazil and Spain, Lincoln and Paulinho limited the damage of Wesley’s own goal and helped the South Americans clinch a thrilling 2-1 win on Saturday.

Paulinho celebrates after scoring a goal against Spain during the FIFA U-17 World Cup football match at Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Saturday.   -  H. Vibhu

Title-favourite Brazil got its FIFA U-17 World Cup campaign to a winning start, as it defeated a dangerous looking Spain 2-1 in a thrilling encounter here at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Saturday evening.

Spain got off the blocks in spectacular fashion and snatched the lead in the fifth minute via an unlikely own goal. Spanish No. 7 Ferran Torres’ cross was met by a rushing Brazilian defender Wesley, who knocked the ball into his own net, gifting Spain an early lead.

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The Spanish side then went out to play some classic tiki-taka, much like its senior team and dominated the initial 15 minutes of the match. While Brazil, despite being egged on by the crowd, looked awfully fidgety and was unable to stitch a string of passes.

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Brazil eventually went on to show signs of attacking intent, which paid off in the 25th minute, thanks to a rare lapse in an otherwise tight Spanish back-line. Brenner's cross from the left flank was muffed by the Spanish defence and striker Lincoln latched onto the error to tap in his side's first goal and put the game on level terms.

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Brazil, though, remained under constant threat from Torres, who was at it again in the 37th minute, when he unleashed a powerful right-footer that went just wide.

The 43rd minute saw Brazil nearly go up again, courtesy another error in the Spanish defence. Having already scored a goal, Lincoln chased down a rather careless back pass and took on the Spanish keeper, nearly deflecting the latter's clearance in for another goal.

As the third official signalled for two minutes of added time and the first half looked like it would end on level terms, further drama ensued. A precise chip pass from Brazil's Marcos Antonio met No. 7 Paulinho, who calmly tapped it over the ’keeper, to give his side a crucial lead and end the half on a dominant note.

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The second half saw Brazil come out looking a lot more confident, but it was the Spanish attack that seemed threatening. The defence looked a lot more stable and Paulinho was constantly kept in check by Spain's Hugo Guillamon.

While Spain did create multiple chances, it simply lacked the finishing touch to register a goal. Sergio Gomez unleashed a powerful volley in the 55th minute to draw a fine save from the Brazilian ’keeper, but despite his and his team's repeated attempts, Spain just could not find the back of the net.

Lincoln had a splendid chance in the 68th minute that could have put his side 3-1 up and the tie beyond doubt, but he failed to convert, leaving the tie still largely open. The 72nd minute saw Brazil find the back of the net. The crowd erupted in joy, only for the goal to be disallowed.

The South American boys remained adamant to finish off the game and foiled yet another opportunity in the 88th minute, which was a rather simple two on one chance.

The side, however, held on to its lead and emerged victorious, much to the crowd’s delight, but certainly not in the most convincing of manners. Its defence looked very shaky while its attackers lacked the killer instinct. 

While coach Carlos Amadeu stressed before the match that his side remains confident despite Vinicius Jr's absence, today's display showed otherwise. It seems like Brazil certainly needs more time to cope with his absence and bolster its attack, as it bids to secure a fourth World Cup title.  

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