The final of the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup 2012, played in sparkling sunshine, saw FC Zurich defeat city rivals Grasshopper Club 2-0 on Thursday. The victory represents a fourth success for the Swiss side in the prestigious youth football tournament, drawing them closer to today’s opponents in the all-time standings.
After an overcast opening day’s play on Wednesday, there was a certain country-fair feel to proceedings at the Buchlern sports complex in Zurich today, with pleasant weather, hot dog stands, organised children’s games and large crowds all providing the perfect atmosphere for some excellent sporting entertainment.
Both finalists had led their respective sections going into the second day of action, but there was still everything to play for. Congolese side TP Mazembe fought hard in Group A, but eventually had to content themselves with second spot. In the match for third place, the Africans faced an impressive Zenit St Petersburg team, runners-up in Group B.
The Russians emerged with a 1-0 win from a tight contest, one in which the European club’s vibrant team play overcame their opponents’ dynamic, creative and at times unpredictable attacks. A goal from Alexey Panfilov, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Russia international Andrei Arshavin, settled the contest. The same player was carried off minutes later after being knocked out cold in a collision.
On the Mazembe side of the park, there were notable displays from Ragon Pembele, Moses Siausmo and Herve Kamba, among others. As products of the club’s well-respected youth set-up, the future looks significantly rosy for Mazembe as well as Congo DR’s national side.
Further down the final placings, fifth-placed FC Porto demonstrated a well-organised style of football, led by long-haired playmaker Fabio Martins, constantly probing for openings in a calm and composed manner, and flying wingers Frederic Maciel and Adriano Castanheira.
The Greeks of Panathinaikos, who finished sixth, showed significant fighting spirit, but were guilty of a lack of creativity at times. Below them in seventh, BSC Young Boys will draw satisfaction from the fine performance of Michael Frey in their resounding 5-0 triumph over Borussia Monchengladbach, who will be disappointed to finish eighth.
Their dismay was likely surpassed by that of Turkish outfit Besiktas, who ended up in last position, and somehow managed to concede two penalties and get a man sent off in an unfortunate nine-minute period during their encounter with Porto. The Istanbul side will console themselves with the fact that their small but vocal group of supporters not only provided them with fantastic backing throughout, but created a memorable atmosphere with their drumming and non-stop chants.
Hosts FC Blue Stars (9th), who are generally regarded as tournament outsiders, showed that they were certainly not there to make up the numbers, playing with style and verve to beat Besiktas. Blue Stars No10 Sheran Gunawardena stood out for his Neymar-inspired hairstyle and Ronaldinho-style ‘blind’ passes.
The final therefore saw the locking of horns of two Zurich giants very familiar with each other’s style of play, a possible reason for the cautious opening to the match. FC Zurich appeared to be more technically sound in midfield, where Ali Imren and Ramadan Morina were dominant, though without creating any real chances.
Paradoxically, it was Grasshopper who then wasted the best opportunity, a shot from point-blank range that forced goalkeeper Yanick Brecher into a stunning save. In the second half, however, FC Zurich regained control, and it came as no surprise when they opened the scoring through Fabio Schmid. Imren sealed the win in the final minutes of the match.
1. FC Zurich
2. Grasshopper Club
3. Zenit St Petersburg
4. TP Mazembe
5. FC Porto
7. BSC Young Boys
8. Borussia Monchengladbach
9. FC Blue Stars
FIFA Fair Play award:
adidas Golden Ball award:
Levent Gulen (Grasshopper Club)
adidas Golden Glove award:
Yanick Brecher (FC Zurich)