The Vintiöt live or die against Colombia
The impressive Vintiöt, comprehensively beaten by a smashing Mexican side in their second match of the finals, will need to right the ship and get a win in their final Group A game if they are to avoid the axe and slip into a spot in a first-ever quarter-final. According to coach Jyrki Heliskoski, an indifferent performance against the North Americans may just be the wake-up call his side need heading into the clutch match with Colombia.
The Colombians can count themselves fortunate to be sitting pretty on four points from two matches. With Mexico tied on four and China cruelly eliminated after a 1-2 loss to the Colombians, 19 August’s clash will truly be a do-or-die encounter in a wide-open Group A.
“The better team won today,” said the likeable, no-nonsense Finn boss after the match with Mexico on Saturday – also the 300th FIFA U-17 World Championship match. “They moved the ball well, read the game and took their chances.”
Colombia were the beneficiary of some strange circumstances in the day’s first meeting. And though seemingly outplayed and outmanned by the skilful and hard-working Chinese, a contentious penalty from Fredy Guarin and a fine bit of interplay and a cool finish from second-half supersub Sebastian Hernandez sealed the day and sent China out of the competition.
Looking ahead to the showdown with the hosts, Colombia coach Eduardo Lara is not expecting a simple affair.
“It will be a very difficult game against Finland,” said Lara. “They will be a hard team to beat, they play good football and will have the crowd behind them…we will just try to focus.”
Finnish Caption Jermu Gustafsson, who sat dejected and slumped in his chair at the post-match press conference, has his own ideas ahead of the crucial clash.
“Colombia are a very skilful team,” he said still smarting from the sting of defeat. “But they can also play hard, tough football when they need to…I will talk with the guys and try to get their confidence up before the match.”
Heliskoski, who sees Mexico as a tougher opponent than Colombia, has no choice but to go for it – as no result save for a clear win would see them through.
“Mexico plays a more compact team game than Colombia,” he said. “It will not be a piece of cake, and though our chances of getting to the second round are not as good as they were this morning, we will always play to win. We will play our game in the last match.”
Tactically astute and with a footballing brain of some consequence, the clever boss is not giving away any secrets ahead of the biggest match his boys have ever played in their lives.
“I don’t know how we will play,” he smiles when asked by a persistent Finnish journalist about his tactical approach for the match with Colombia. “And if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.”
Second-half substitute against Mexico, superb striker Jami Puustinen, did give away a bit of the team’s approach for vanquishing the South Americans.
“We will be ready to go against Colombia,” the striker said. “We will do everything we have to do to beat them.”