Korea DPR vow to upset favourites Brazil
Just how good is this latest crop of Brazilian talent? The question did the rounds following the South Americans' 6:0 stroll over a dispirited Qatar in their final group game. The Gulf side had been decimated by two sendings-off with a quarter of the match still to play, making the fixture nothing more than a moderately taxing training ground exercise. Thus the South Americans made possession their own, spraying the ball around with not an opponent in sight and a score in double figures would hardly have surprised anyone present.
The reigning champions opened their Peru 2005 campaign with a shock 3:1 defeat at the hands of Gambia, but staved off an embarrassing early exit with a 2:1 victory over the Netherlands. Still the Seleçao can expect a much tougher test in the quarter-finals than that posed by the Qataris, although they start as clear favourites against Korea DPR.
Brazil boss Nelson Rodrigues was in relaxed mood ahead of the last eight showdown. "We always knew it would be a challenging and difficult tournament. The field is evenly matched. But the fact is, the CBF [Brazilian football association] hired me to bring home the trophy. We're well prepared for any opponents and we've come here to win the tournament," he declared confidently.
Koreans out to wreck the samba party
For their part, Korea DPR fancy themselves as party-poopers, even in the face of Asia's dismal record against Brazil at FIFA U-17 World Championships: in nine meetings, AFC nations have drawn three, lost six, scored three and conceded 20. However, the North Korean side won many admirers at the group stage with an impressive blend of technique and pace.
They were unfortunate to lose 3:2 in the opener against the USA, but coach Tong Sop Jo's side responded with a convincing 3:0 victory over Côte d'Ivoire before a comfortable 1:1 draw against Italy. It is only the third time a Korea DPR representative team has contested a FIFA finals: the previous occasions were the 1966 FIFA World Cup™ in England, and the 1976 Olympic football tournament in Montreal. The Koreans have already achieved their pre-tournament target by making the quarter-finals and thus have nothing to lose from here on.
Commented coach Tong Sop Jo: "Qualifying for the quarter-finals rates as a great performance for us. My players are here to continue their development, but we've already learnt a huge amount at this tournament. We're moving forward step by step, and we'll sit down and analyse Brazil's strengths and weaknesses." The coach already knows the armoury he has at his disposal: "Team spirit is our trump card." Nothing is impossible in football, and the North Koreans would be only too happy to put a dent in Brazil's growing reputation for invincibility.