Group D: Drama right to the very last
This was the group that had just about everything the fans could have hoped to have seen at the FIFA U-17 World Championship Peru 2005… an avalanche of goals, a huge shock result, one of the tournament's best games and a dramatic conclusion that proved to be a cliff-hanger of epic proportions.
The city of Piura played host to two fabulous rounds of matches before the climax at Lima and Trujillo saw Gambia starting the night on the brink of the quarter-finals, but finishing it by going out of Peru 2005 in heartbreaking and unexpected circumstances.
1 - Brazil, 6 pts (goal difference +5)
Group D could hardly have had a worse start for the defending champions as they lost 3:1 to Gambia, though their defeat of the Netherlands was hailed as one of the greatest games in the championship and that turned fortunes around for coach Nelson Rodrigues and his team. A closing 6:0 goal fiesta against Qatar rocketed them to the top of the group and there is every reason to suspect that a side which looked in true danger of early elimination may yet go all the way back to the final again. Everybody expects the Brazilians to be skilful and so it is with this selection, with winger Anderson arguably the pick of the bunch. His performance against Holland was especially noteworthy, as was that of goalkeeper Felipe, who seems destined for an extremely bright future. Team captain Denilson is an inspired leader, while the goals of Ramon and Igor could provide the platform for a successful title defence.
2 - Netherlands, 6 pts (goal difference +3)
Defensive vulnerability overshadowed the Netherlands opening win over Qatar as they scored five goals, but conceded three. Then they seemed to be heading for a heavy defeat just 20 minutes into their second game against Brazil, when Dutch coach Ruud Kaiser admitted his team were getting hammered by the South Americans. An inspired tactical switch brought Holland back into the equation and though they lost 2:1, they had outstanding goalkeeper Tim Krul to thank for keeping the margin of defeat to a minimum. How decisive that was to prove against Gambia in the group crunch match. Even Kaiser did not seem to be expecting his team to make the last eight, but they got the 2:0 win they required to scrape through as their fine team captain and record caps holder Dirk Marcellis scored with his head. John Goossens caused problems for full-backs with his surging runs and up front Marvin Emnes and Diego Biseswar posed a formidable threat.
3 - Gambia, 6 pts (goal difference +2)
Gambia have been something of an enigma at this tournament. Tall, strong, powerful and conquerors of the mighty Brazil… so how did they go out? The answer was by a single goal. That was the difference between fabulous success and heartbreaking failure, though coach Fred Osam Duodu can take a lot of pride in his players and also himself for the joy they collectively brought to the public with their performances. Against Brazil, they were astonishing - none more so than giant striker Momodou Ceesay, who scored twice at Peru 2005, but ultimately missed the penalty against the Netherlands that could have sent his team through. Regular penalty taker and team captain Ousman Jallow also made a name for himself, as did Sainey Nyassi and Tijan Jaiteh with their frightening pace. This was Gambia's first appearance in a FIFA World Championship at any level, but do not expect it to be the last if this team stays together and finds the inspiration that came to them in Peru once again. Gambia and their amazingly passionate fans will be sorely missed.
4 - Qatar, 0 pts (goal difference - 10)
A strong build-up to the FIFA U-17 World Championship led Qatar coach Tini Ruijs to expect great things of his players, but nerves got the better of them on the big occasion and not too many of his starlets lived up to hopes the Dutchman had in them. Three goals against the Netherlands in their opener offered a teasing glimpse of their promise, but sleepless nights and fretful days took their toll on the Qatari youngsters as they tired and collapsed under pressure. Ruijs cited the fact that his boys were used to playing in front of crowds of 50 rather than 23,000. Yusef Ali and Khalfan al Khalfan would be a handful for any U-17 defence once they are in full flight though and their incisive counter-attacking was the principle danger against the Netherlands and Gambia in the first two games. The final match was "a catastrophe" according to Ruijs, who watched his team concede six goals against Brazil and have two players sent off. Ruijs earmarked Mohammed al Yazidi and Faisal al Shuaibi for greater things in the future, but they were not able to reproduce their form from the qualifiers and that was partly the reason for Qatar's downfall.