FIFA U-17 WC: Germany gets the better of Costa Rica

At the U-17 Euros in May, Germany had scored a bucket load of goals – 36 from a combined eight matches in the qualifying and main tournament. Against Costa Rica in the FIFA U-17 World Cup Group C opener at the Fatorda stadium here on Saturday, the goals didn't quite flow but as most things German the job was done with a 2-1 victory.

Action during a FIFA U-17 World Cup match between Germany and Costa Rica in Margao on Saturday.   -  Prashant Nakwe

At the U-17 Euros in May, Germany had scored a bucket load of goals – 36 from a combined eight matches in the qualifying and main tournament. Against Costa Rica in the FIFA U-17 World Cup Group C opener at the Fatorda stadium here on Saturday, the goals didn't quite flow but as most things German the job was done with a 2-1 victory.

Substitute Noah Awuku bundled in the winner with just a minute to spare following a defensive blunder by Fernan Faerron wherein he let the ball through his legs off what looked like an innocuous cross from the right flank. Talisman Jann-Fiete Arp had opened the scoring mid-way through the first half before the central-American nation equalised through Andres Gomez near the hour mark.

GERMANY VS COSTA RICA MATCH CENTRE

While Germany will surely celebrate the win – by drinking water and not beer, its coach Christian Wuck clarified – there were large swathes of the game over which it had no grip. The first 10 minutes was one such period during which Costa Rica pressed with vigour and earned a few chances. Rodolfo Alvaro skied the best of the lot from close range after the German goalie Luca Plogmann – unconvincing on more than one occasion – couldn't handle a backpass.

READ: FIFA U17: Inspired Iraq looks to overcome the odds

Winger Josue Abarca was a constant menace on the right wing as Costa Rica bypassed the German midfield with pin-point long balls. On the occasions when the two German creators Elias Abouchabaka and Nicolas Kuhn had the ball, they were found wanting. The latter did lay a first-time ball for Arp to score, but there was little else.

After the break, Alvaro had a fine half-volley saved by Plogmann. But it was not long before Abarca chested down a ball and played a perfectly-weighted pass for Gomez to run on to and finish. Germany's movement was severely restricted under what were humid conditions and it was only after three successive substitutions with around half an hour left did the side gather itself.

In the dying moments, Arp shot wide from point-blank range but coach Wuck, as he later revealed in the media interaction, is not one to be vainly gratified by such near-misses.

Later Iran beat Guinea 3-1 to match Germany's winning start. After a cagey first half, in which Guinea's star forward Djibril Fandje Toure even headed against the bar, Iran trampled the west African nation. It didn't even matter that two of the goals were from defensive mistakes and the other from a penalty for which Guinea's Cherif Camara was sent off.

IRAN VS GUINEA MATCH CENTRE

The match was also closely watched in the stands by Wuck and his assistants. Next Tuesday, Germany takes on Iran in what looks set to decide the group topper and the coaching staff would have surely gauged the level by which the European giant will need to lift its game.