FIFA U-17 WC: Colombia braces for German challenge; US wary of Paraguay

German resilience would be tested by Colombian craft while US would hope to trump a spirited Paraguay in the pre-quarterfinals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in New Delhi.

“There is no pressure to win titles but we look forward to developing the players," Germany U-17 head-coach Christian Wueck said ahead of his team's crucial encounter against Colombia on Monday.   -  H. Vibhu

German resilience would be tested by Colombian craft at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Monday in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup pre-quarterfinals.

Neither has won the under-17 crown and that should be the driving force for the teams on a day when the United States meets Paraguay in the second knockout contest at this venue.

The German coach, Christian Wueck, acknowledged Colombia’s progress from a tough group that included India, Ghana and United States. “Colombia has some strong and fast players,” remarked Wueck, who preferred Delhi’s lesser humidity to Goa and Kochi where his boys played their league matches.

Germany, emphasized Wueck, does not just aim for a title. “There is no pressure to win titles but we look forward to developing the players. I think the Europeans are a bit slow in developing their players. Winning here would be strong for their football education,” he said.

Colombia banking on familiar conditions

For Colombia, the strength should come from familiarity with the playing conditions. “We have the edge because we know the pitch. We also have the strong defence to tackle the Germans. We encountered teams with different forms of play. The teams challenged us in different ways.

"We changed our players and system against the US. We shifted to a 3-4-1-2 formation from 4-2-1-3. This allowed us to recover the ball quickly, we had better possession, we played with assuredness and we had greater intensity,” said coach Orlando Restrepo.

Colombian goalkeeper Nicolas Gomez assessed his team aptly, “We’ve played all our matches well. But perhaps, it improved in the last match… Logically, Germany’s forwards are quite strong. But I think our defence can match their strength and it should not be a problem.”

US focus on digging deep

United States would have to dig deep against Paraguay, which has enjoyed an impressive campaign in this tournament. Paraguay won all its matches, scoring ten goals and conceding five, without compromising on its style. True, New Zealand and Turkey did not offer big resistance to the Paraguayan side but the South American nation has the capacity to play beyond its potential. Just as the United States.

To have qualified from a group with sturdy teams like Colombia and Ghana, the United States is best prepared for the knockout stage. “We are very happy to be playing in New Delhi,” commented the US coach John Hackworth. The Paraguayan coach, Gustavo Morinigo, rated the US as a “complicated and dangerous team. This is where the game begins.”

The Nehru Stadium will witness a variety of technique and tactics. The FIFA Head of Coaching and Player Development Branimir Ujevic noted “Credit to the Indian people. It has been a great World Cup. The football atmosphere has been really fantastic. On your way to the stadium, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re going to Old Trafford or the Bernabeu or a place like that.”

It will be interesting to see the turnout when the crowd is not orchestrated.

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