The semi-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup have thrown up two intriguing ties in the shape of Germany-Mexico and Uruguay-Brazil, both of which are fixtures richly steeped in football history. Not only do the promising youngsters on show have the opportunity to secure their sides a place in the final here at Mexico 2011, they can also write their very own chapters in two riveting footballing tales.
Though the clash between Brazil and Uruguay is a clear case of South American rivalry, Germany-Mexico also reunites old foes despite the pair's geographical separation. Indeed, the Brazilian and Uruguayan senior sides have gone head-to-head in memorable encounters right here on Mexican soil and, adding to the sense of déjà vu, so have El Tri and Die Nationalmannschaft.
Ninety minutes not enough
Germany and Mexico have met ten times in official matches, with the European heavyweights winning four to Los Aztecas’ one. Three of these games came at FIFA World Cup™ final tournaments, of which two deserve special mention. And though Mexico will not wish to recall their 6-0 thrashing by the 1974 world champions at Argentina 1978, they put up a much greater fight come the pair’s quarter-final tie in Monterrey at Mexico 1986.
Coached by the iconic strategist Bora Milutinovic, taking part in the first of a run of five FIFA World Cups at the helm of five different sides, El Tri won Group B before edging out Bulgaria in the round of 16 to set up the tie with the former West Germany. After 120 goalless minutes, the match went to penalty kicks – as was the case in three of the four last-eight ties at Mexico 1986. Seizing the chance to shine was German keeper Harald Schumacher, whose two saves proved key to securing a 4-1 shootout success for the eventual runners-up, who were beaten by Diego Maradona’s Argentina in the Final.
Another memorable meeting came at the FIFA Confederations Cup Germany 2005, when the hosts narrowly defeated the Mexicans in a thrilling match for third place. The three-time world champions took the lead on three occasions, only for the North Americans to match them blow for blow in a game level at 3-3 after normal time. But when prolific midfielder Michael Ballack popped up in the 97th minute to put his side in front yet again, a fourth Mexican equaliser proved too big an ask.
Maracanazo memories still fresh
No look at Brazil versus Uruguay would be complete without going back to the events of 16 July 1950, and the decisive final game of that year’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Having gone a goal down shortly after the break, visitors La Celeste stunned a packed-to-the-rafters Maracana by clinching the Trophy after a 2-1 comeback success. The so-called Maracanazo remains the standout match of the 70 senior meetings between the two nations, 32 of which have ended in wins for A Seleção and 19 for Los Charrúas.
Another memorable encounter came at the semi-final stage of the 1970 FIFA World Cup Mexico which, in common with this year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup semi, was also played in Guadalajara. “It really is something special for everyone in the game and football historians: it’s like reliving that moment,” said Uruguay U-17 boss Fabian Coito, before looking ahead to Thursday’s clash. “This is another story though. I don’t think these lads will be able to identify much with that game, because it took place 24 years before they were born. But of course it adds a little spice to proceedings.”
A Canarinho came back from a goal down to win that last-four meeting 3-1, in a game in which Pele came close to scoring what would have been one of the greatest goals of all time. In a move that illustrated all of his inspirational genius, O Rei ran onto a through ball from Tostao before seeing Uruguayan No1 Ladislao Mazurkiewicz charging off his line towards him. Showing admirable cunning, the Brazilian No10 bamboozled the onrushing keeper with an outrageous dummy, allowing him to skip round the prone custodian and get a shot away at full stretch, only for the ball to go just wide of the far post.
“That was a really tough game,” recalled A Verde e Amarelo’s U-17 coach Emerson Avila. “Brazil were tagged as favourites but when you take on Uruguay, with their typical garra charrúa, that counts for nothing. But we’re certainly hoping for the same outcome as the ’70 semi-final and to stay on course for the title.”