More than 35,000 people roared in delight as Joao Pedro Silva broke through, fast and furiously, down the right wing and scored. That goal sealed a 2-0 victory for Brazil’s Atletico Paranaense against Watford FC in the opening match of the Sait Nagjee international club football tournament at the Corporation Stadium on Friday night.
It certainly was a bright beginning to a tournament that, for decades, was the biggest annual event in the sporting calendar of a football-crazy city. It has been 21 years, though, the since the last edition of the tournament was held.
The big crowd on the opening night proved the city has not lost any of its enthusiasm for the beautiful game, though it has not hosted any major football event for a long time. With eight top teams from Latin America and Europe this is the most important tournament here for decades.
On Friday, there were glimpses of the quality football one expects from those regions, though it was the youth sides of the teams from the top divisions in Brazil and England that took to the field. The boys from Brazil looked far keener to attack when the match got underway. For some 20 minutes, Watford’s defence and goal was under constant pressure.
Then the English boys started to retaliate and came up with a few promising attacks. And the match became pretty interesting, with both sides trying to break the deadlock.
Paranaense broke through after a barren opening half, with a 60th-minute goal by Luis Felipe Soares. His left-footer, from inside the box, beat Watford’s hard-working custodian Luke Simpson.
Just two minutes later Silva, who was also named Man of the Match, made it 2-0, as his solo run though the right flanks beat a couple of defenders and the ‘keeper. It was a fine counterattack from the Brazilians.
On Saturday, Argentina Under-23 will take on TSV 1880 Munich from Germany.
“The Argentines are the team to beat here,” TSV’s coach Necat Ayguen said. The Argentine coach, Julio Olarticoecha, who was part of the 1986 Argentine team that won the World Cup, hoped the tournament was a good opportunity for his young team.
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