Brazil and Australia have had relatively little to do with each other in footballing terms. While this is mainly to do with the vast distance that separates the two nations, the difference in stature between the five-time FIFA World Cup™ winners and a country that has taken to the sport relatively recently is also a factor.
At final tournaments of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, however, the two countries are familiar foes, with this Thursday’s clash in Group F at Mexico 2011 the pair’s seventh meeting in the history of this competition.
In the sides’ previous six meetings, A Seleção have had the upper hand to the tune of four wins to the Joeys’ one. The solitary drawn game came in the final of New Zealand 1999, with Brazil taking the trophy after a dramatic penalty shootout. Despite this historical edge, every new crop of U-17 players is different from the one that precedes it, and Auriverde coach Emerson Avila has been quick to play down his side’s favourites tag.
Indeed, both teams kicked off their group campaigns with victories achieved in a similar fashion. Australia were trailing at the interval of their match with Côte d’Ivoire, who had been the dominant side in the first period, only to turn the scoreline on its head after the break and clinch a 2-1 success.
Brazil, for their part, were under the cosh against Denmark and required a fine display from goalkeeper Charles, particularly in the opening half hour, to help keep the scores level. Like the Aussies they too proved the more clinical in front of goal, however, and after opening the scoring on 32 minutes they cruised to a 3-0 win.
18 – The number of penalties required in the shootout after the 0-0 draw between Brazil and Australia in the final of New Zealand 1999, three of which were missed. A Verde e Amarelo finally won 8-7, when Leonardo scored his spot-kick following Iain Fyfe’s failure to convert.
“I’m expecting it to be a really difficult game for us. I really like this Australia side. I think that they’re a team with a very refined technical ability, they’re able to work the ball even in tight spaces and are tactically interesting,” Brazil coach Emerson Avila.
“First we need to watch the video (of Brazil’s game). From our point of view though, we’re going to try and use all our experience and tactical awareness, so that the players can hit even greater heights,” Australia coach Jan Versleijen.