Whatever happens in the Final between Brazil and Spain at Helsinki’s Töölö stadium on Saturday some kind of first will have been reached. After last year’s Pentacampeao FIFA World Cup™ triumph, the young Selecao are gunning for a record third title at junior level. But it will be no easy task as they come up against a never-say-die European side in search of a first championship. Featuring Evandro and Cesc, two of the stars of Finland 2003, the 32nd and last match is sure to be one to remember.
Goals have flowed like never before on Finnish soil and top of the scoring charts are the two finalists. Spain, with 16 strikes, lead the way two ahead of Brazil. And of all the key mini battles likely to take place on Saturday, perhaps the most intriguing is that between the teams’ attacking midfielders - Brazil’s Evandro, who has hit the net four times, and Spain’s Cesc who sits at the top of the scorers’ table with five goals. The players were instrumental in their teams’ semi-final victories with Cesc grabbing a brilliant brace including the golden goal winner against Argentina and Evandro teeing up striker Abuda on numerous occasions in the victory versus Colombia.
“Who scores the goals is not important. We play as a team and that’s the reason I pass to Abuda and don’t try to score myself,” said Brazil’s number 11, who did not get on the scoresheet in the 2-0 semi-final win. “To win a championship you need to have a good group.”
He may not be the team’s captain but Evandro is certainly Brazil’s joker in the pack. Together with his tricks on the field, the ace’s humour off it has contributed to an excellent atmosphere in the camp.
“I think it’s important to smile both on and off the pitch,” he says with a cheeky grin. “I have given all the players nicknames.”
But Evandro also has his serious side and against Spain in the Final he will be hoping to add to his four goals and claim the adidas Golden Shoe award.
“I saw Spain play Argentina and they looked extremely good,” the tall Guarani player added. “I think they must now start as favourites.”
Competing against Evandro for the top goalscoring prize and possibly the adidas Golden Ball award for best player is Spain’s Cesc.
Much talked about even before the finals began because of rumours over a lucrative move to English Premier League side Arsenal, the 16-year-old will have increased the watching eyes after a series of stunning performances in Finland. Such is his energy and movement, it seems almost insulting to shackle the Barcelona player with a set position on the park. But one important place where he has developed the knack of popping up in at just the right time is the penalty box. And his 117th-minute golden goal winner against Argentina in the semi-finals underlined his sense of occasion.
“I saw the chance and knew there wasn’t much time left,” the Catalan said recalling the effort. “I didn’t need to think twice, I just went for it.”
Hoisted atop the shoulders of team-mate Francis, Cesc’s tears flooded down his cheeks as the emotion of realising, in one jink past a defender and true strike into the top corner, he had instantly become the darling of a nation.
“I can’t believe what is happening to me,” was all he could manage to mutter.
The big-time character of Spain’s number 17 needs no words of introduction though. While others might have wished for a weaker team to play in the Final, Cesc is happy the Furia Roja will come up against powerful Brazil.
“I wanted to play Brazil in the Final because in my mind they are the toughest team,” he says. “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”
Spain’s veteran coach Juan Santisteban has beaten some fine sides in his record 26 world championship matches in charge but the ultimate prize has somehow eluded him. He will be hoping to go one better than his and Spain’s one-and-only appearance in a junior Final 12 years ago when they lost to Ghana in Italy.
“Although Brazil are perhaps the best team in the world at every category of the game, this team does not know how to lose. We are going to give it our best shot,” he said.