FIFA U-17 WC: Spain takes on a confident Niger

“Spain and Brazil may be stronger sides at senior level but at junior level everyone is the same, So we have a chance against them,'' said Niger’s coach Ismalia Tiemoko ahead of the clash with the European champion.

Spain will look to regroup and bounce back with a win over Niger on Tuesday.   -  H. Vibhu

Niger may be one of the poorest countries in the world but the small African nation is dreaming big in football. The win against North Korea in its opening fixture of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup has given it the belief that it can take on the heavyweights in the tournament. Pitted against Spain in the second league match of Group D on Tuesday, Niger is confident that it can pull the rug from under the feet of the European champion here at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium.

Coach Ismalia Tiemoko says the World Cup is open and he has trust in his players abilities. “Spain and Brazil may be stronger sides at senior level but at junior level everyone is the same, So we have a chance against them,'' he said at the end of the 1-0 win against North Korea on Saturday.

But Niger will be taking on a side whose style of play is in sharp contrast to the defensive North Korean side which relied mostly on counter to sting its opponent. Spain, before it was troubled by the oppressive heat, had Brazil in trouble. Ismalia will be aware of Spain strength's in this tournament.

Ferren Torres, on the right, played like the classical winger of old days, whipping in crosses on the run. Though prolific scorer Abel Ruiz came up short against Brazil, the striker will still be a dangerous player. Defender Mateu Jaume has recovered from the injury which forced him to leave the field early on Saturday but Spain will be at full strength against Niger. Although, Spain will again have an early kick-off in the heat on Tuesday and it remains to be seen how the team adjusts itself to the balmy conditions in Kochi.

Brazil’s attack v Korea’s defence

North Korea will adopt the same defensive approach to stifle the Brazilians who will be looking for a win to nail their place in the second round. “The defesive strategy has worked well for us in the past. We think defence is the best offence. The Brazilians will be playing their natural attacking game. But we are ready to counter that. It is an another day and a new game. We will give our best,'' said the North Korean coach Kim Yong Su after the team's training session. But it will be a tough ask to rein in the creative Brazilian midfielders.

Brazilian coach Carlos Amadeu talked of his team's mental strength after the comeback win against Spain in the opening match. “We won because we were mentally tough. Koreans will play hard but we are ready for them, '' he said. There will be no dearth of support for Brazil here and the fans will be expecting another complete domination from the Selecao.