Paulinho unleashed a 25-yard thunderbolt and ran like a sprinter towards the stands. Brazil came from behind to go 2-1 up and a collective hysteria engulfed the Salt Lake Stadium. Some fans, in a state of frenzy, started throwing water pouches. Brazil coach Carlos Amadeu slipped and fell down while celebrating. It felt like a senior World Cup, not an Under-17 level contest between two football giants.
In a game of two halves, Germany were done in by the joga bonito (beautiful football) after the break. The intensity was such that Amadeu got into a war of words with his German counterpart, Christian Wueck, as Victor Bobsin was cynically fouled. At the death, when Germany had three corners on the bounce, Brazil players openly took their protests to referee Jair Marrufo for adding more time to the six add-on minutes. In the end, the German colts hung their heads, while the Brazilians did a lap of honour. Brazil were into the U-17 World Cup semifinals for the seventh time. They will face England in Guwahati.
In front of 66,000 fans, the game had fascinating tactical punches and counter punches. Amadeu had the last laugh, with two match-turning changes in the second half and a formation switch to 4-3-3 and, at times, 3-4-3. Brazil started with 4-2-3-1 against Germany’s 3-5-2 and had surrendered the midfield advantage in the first half.
Weverson’s introduction for Luan Candido changed the complexion of the game. Brazil’s first-choice left-back started on the bench because he wasn’t 100 per cent. But with Candido getting schooled by John Yeboah, the change became necessary. Brazil were trailing by a goal going into the break and the desperate situation called for desperate measures.
Bringing on Yuri Alberto for Benner was another smart move. It made the right flank mobile. The formation shift helped the three-time champions wrest the midfield control. Lincoln made inroads and was denied by a brilliant fingertip save from Luca Plogmann. From the resulting corner, Lincoln’s header missed the far post by a whisker. Paulinho couldn’t meet a Lincoln cross from the right that offered a simple tap-in. Then, in the 71st minute, Weverson equalised with a left-footer on the run that kissed the bottom half of the crossbar and went in. Lincoln and Alan had combined well to set up the opportunity for the substitute left-back, who by then had comfortably bottled Yeboah and was also providing the attacking thrusts.
Weverson’s goal invited a Mexican Wave and Brazil upped the ante. Under pressure, the German boys started committing mistakes. They should have closed down Paulinho but allowed the Brazilian forward to attempt a long-ranger that found the top corner.
Excitement over this game had reached fever pitch. The conductor at the FIFA Special bus, rolled on by the West Bengal government for this tournament, cursed his luck. Brazil were playing in Kolkata and his duty prevented him from cheering for the canary yellow at the Salt Lake Stadium.
The quarterfinal had an 8 pm start. By 7.30, the stands were full. A few German flags sheepishly popped out amid a sea of yellow. ‘Brazil, Brazil’ chants reverberated through the stadium. The Germany fans had been waiting patiently. On 21 minutes, as Jann-Fiete Arp scored from the spot, they made their presence felt.
Maybe, Germany needed a bit of luck on Brazil’s ‘home’ pitch. Candido provided them with the opportunity, losing the ball near his penalty area. The excellent Yeboah picked the ball and cut through. Lucas Halter was late in his challenge and a penalty ensued.
Brazil had started brightly. Alan hit the post on six minutes, but Germany bounced back by playing long ball to the wings and thriving on superb deliveries from their wingers. Germany should have added another two goals by 30 minutes. But Elias Abouchabaka’s left-footer from inside the area narrowly missed the target and Lars Mai bungled an open header from a corner.
Germany hardly had a clear sight of the goal in the second half. Josh Vagnoman should have scored after Brazil goalkeeper Gabriel Brazao’s weak punch fell nicely for him on 56 minutes. But he wasted the opportunity and then Brazil came to the party.
Germany coach cries foul
Germany coach blasted the referee after the match. Wueck felt that his team should have had a penalty in the second half, when one of his players was elbowed inside the box. “Did you watch the game? Did you look at the eyes of Jan Boller? It was a clear foul on him and they were not penalised. We have no problems in losing. But not this way… The difference was the referee in this match,” Wueck said.
Boller came on 76 minutes, replacing Sahverdi Cetin and a minute later Brazil scored their winning goal. “Before the World Cup, every game team gets an instruction from referee that every hand in the face, elbow is a clear foul. It’s a red card, and here it’s not a foul. I don’t believe it.
“We have no problems in losing a game. Congratulations to Brazil. But this way it’s very, very harsh. Our players were crying in the changing room,” the coach added.