Just as in every competition, several contenders jostle for position at the starting line but there can be only one winner. At the Gwangyang Soccer Only Field this Wednesday evening, two pedigree teams will be hoping to avoid falling by the wayside. Ghana and Brazil, respectively double and triple winners of the world's premier U-17 football trophy, arrived in Korea as strong contenders to reach the Final. While it has been plain sailing so far for the Auriverde, who booked an early passage to the Round of 16 with two convincing displays, a 7-0 drubbing of New Zealand and a 6-1 thumping of Korea DPR, Ghana have made a meal of their qualification. The Black Starlets waited until the dying stages of their final group match against Colombia to secure their knockout berth, Ishamel Yartey grabbing the winner on 84 minutes.
When the referee blows to signal the end of this match, we can expect to see joyous celebrations from the winning team, and glum expressions around the rest of the stadium. Not just on the faces of the defeated team, but also on the faces of the thousands of fans who appreciate the finer side of the beautiful game. Ghana and Brazil lit up the first round with their cultured, attack-minded play. Nevertheless, the losers of this game will be sent packing much earlier than they would have wished, while the winners can expect a quarter-final date with either Peru or Tajikistan.
The two teams are familiar foes at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, having already met four times in the knockout phases of the tournament. Ghana have the upper hand with two victories to Brazil's one, the other match ending in a draw after normal time. In 1995, the Black Starlets laid claim to their second world title by beating Brazil in the Final. The South Americans waited two years to gain their revenge, usurping top spot from the Africans when the two met in the climax of the following edition. More recently, the nations' senior teams went toe-to-toe in the second round of the 2006 FIFA World Cup GermanyTM. On that occasion, a 3-0 defeat spelt the end of the road for the Black Stars in their first-ever appearance at the very highest level.
"The manner of our defeat against England hasn't dented our confidence: we're going to win this World Cup. We've prepared very thoroughly to ensure we reach the Final, and we're going to achieve our goal." Lucho Nizzo, Brazil head coach