How the Brazilian flair measures up against the solid yet attacking Ukrainian game would be one of the main things to look forward to at the Corporation Stadium on Sunday night.
It should indeed be an interesting final between Atletico Paranaense and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk at the Mahindra & Mahindra Sait Nagjee international tournament. These two Under-21 sides have undoubtedly played the best football here over the last fortnight.
Both the teams boast plenty of talent and neither has lost a match (they have won three games each and drawn one each). Still, Dnipro goes into the final with a slight edge; it has a tight defence that hasn’t conceded a single goal yet in the tournament. Paranaense coach Marcelo Vilhena conceded as much.
“Yes, we would be the underdogs in the final,” he said. “I feel Dnipro has not just the best defence of all the teams in the tournament, but the best attack, as well,” he said. “They have scored seven goals. I saw their semi-final against Watford last night; it was scary, watching them create opportunities after opportunities.”
The respect is mutual.
Dnipro coach Dmytro Mykhaleynko said the Brazilians played a very fast game. “They have been very impressive here,” he said. “They are a strong attacking side. It should be an exciting final.”
He said his team had also a day less than its opponent to recover. “We are at a disadvantage there,” he said. “And yes, it was tough playing a semi-final that went to extra time.”
It has to be said though that the Ukrainians hardly looked tired in that match against Watford, which they won 3-0 after a goalless normal period. They seem to have adapted to the tough weather conditions here better than all the other teams.
Given the excellent display its defence has put up, it would be tempting to overlook Dnipro’s frontline, but the fact is that it has some very dangerous players there, in the form of Vladyslav Kochergin, Denys Balaniuk and Yurii Vakulko. In the final, they would have to be much more accurate in finishing than they were in the match against Watford, though.
And the Paranaense attack would be more than a match for them. That too, even in the absences of Luis Soares, who had scored in the opening match but would be out of action for six months because of a knee injury.
“Yes, he would be missed in the final,” said Vilhane. “But we have several good players who could make up for his absence, such as Yago da Silva, Jao Pedro Silva and Mauricio Santos.”