FIFA U-17 WC: Lip-smacking encounter on the cards as Brazil-Germany clash in quarters
A humdinger will be on the cards when traditional football heavyweights Brazil and Germany face off in a marquee quarter-final clash of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Kolkata at the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan on Sunday.
In front of an expected crowd of over 60,000 at the venue which has been revamped for the mega event, both outfits - brimming with individual talents in their ranks - would strive to outshine one another and seal a coveted semi-final berth.
Going by form, Brazil hold the edge after emerging unscathed from the group stages and blanking Honduras 3-0 in the pre-quarters.
The Carlos Amadeu-coached side allowed just one goal in four matches so far, scoring nine.
"Our defensive system starts with our forwards. They are helping us a lot -- running and marking. That's why teams are not shooting at my goal that much," says Brazil custodian Gabriel Brazao, who has not conceded any goal in the last 355 minutes since an own goal against Spain in the tournament opener.
Brazao, who plays for Brazilian club Cruzeiro, has also made the highest number of saves so far in the competition with 14 to his name.
In the four games they played so far, Brazil have looked solid up front. If Lincoln, Paulinho and Brenner found the back of the net, midfielder Alan - under the radar of Spanish giants Real Madrid - played the assist maker in chief.
Alan recorded six assists in nine matches at the 2017 South American Under-17 Championships, which was more than any other player.
But in Germany, Brazil would come across their sternest test yet since Spain in their first match.
The Germans looked rather ordinary in the group stages where they suffered a humiliating 0-4 loss to Iran and finished second in their group to qualify for the knockouts. But they seem to be peaking at the right time.
In the 4-0 thrashing of Colombia in the round of 16 tie, Hamburg prodigy Jann-Fiete Arp was all over their South American rivals being involved in all three goals his team netted.
Arp struck 36 goals in 44 matches for Hamburg in the under-17 league, emerged the second-highest goal scorer at the under-17 European Championships and, just last month, became the first player born in 2000 to play in the German Bundesliga.
Arp, who has so far scored four goals in the tournament, would be the key for Germany as they confront Brazil's untested defence.
Big-bodied and combative, Arp can sneak in behind his markers and force errors by pressing down on his opponents.
The Germans would miss their attacking midfielder Dennis Jastrzembski due to suspension. Yannik Keitel is still recovering from an injury sustained in their match against Colombia and trained alone on Friday.
Brazil have been traditional favourites in the soccer mad metropolis for their style of football and skills, and would feel at home in Kolkata with the large chunk of supporters likely to sway their way, though Germany's superb showing at the world stage in recent times have also earned them a good number of local fans.
The two teams have met only once, in 2011, at the U-17 World Cup. Germany had then edged past the South Americans 4-3 in the battle for the third place.
At the senior level, the two most famous meetings in recent times are Germany's epic 7-1 mauling of their rivals in the 2014 World Cup and Brazil avenging the defeat last year at the Rio Olympics to clinch gold.
Brazil are the most successful team at the under-17 level, winning the World Cup thrice (1997, 1999 and 2003) while the Germans have finished runners-up in the 1985 inaugural edition besides being eliminated by the eventual champions in three of their last four appearances.