'Sambas' gear up to face'tiki-taka' starlets, 'giantkillers' Niger up against North Korea
Kochi: Three-time champions Brazil and European powerhouse Spain will take on each other in a highly-anticipated clash between title contenders of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup on Saturday.
The football-mad Kochi could not have asked for anything better than this showdown between the South American champions Brazil and European qualifying tournament winners Spain at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium.
Brazil are the overwhelming favourites of the fans here and Spain will virtually feel like playing in Rio de Janiero or Sau Paulo. But to their good fortune the crowd may not be as loud as usual because FIFA has forced the local organisers to reduce the capacity of the stadium to just 29,200 to comply with the world body's strict evacuation related rules.
But the lucky ones who will be at the stadium tomorrow are sure to witness a fascinating contest between Brazilian attacking flare and Spanish 'tiki-taka' possession football in what could be a final before a final of this tournament.
Both Brazil and Spain are expected to finish as top two teams in Group D, which also has North Korea and Niger. But whoever wins tomorrow will have the advantage and will have one foot at the knock-out stage.
Brazil are a formidable force even in the age group, having appeared 15 times in 16 editions before India and winning the U-17 World Cup trophy thrice (1997, 1999 & 2003).
In the last edition in 2015 in Chile, they were knocked out by eventual champions Nigeria in the quarter-finals.
Brazil went unbeaten in lifting this year's South American U-17 title, winning seven matches and drawing two.
Meanwhile, debutants Niger would look to continue their giant-killing run from the continental qualifying event when they take on a defensive North Korea in their opening Group D match of the FIFA U-17 World Cup on Saturday.
Niger have never previously appeared at a FIFA competition at any level. When they walk out tomorrow at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium here, they will join India and New Caledonia as the three debutants of the FIFA U- 17 World Cup.