Even before the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013, Brazil were tipped to make short work of Group A, and the South Americans more than lived up to their billing as favourites. Even in the absence of suspended boss Alexandre Gallo for their opening match, the junior Brazilians demolished Slovakia 6-1. Hosts United Arab Emirates were put to the sword by the same score, before the young Seleção rounded off their preliminary stage campaign and confirmed first place with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Honduras.
Apart from their defeat to the favourites, Honduras were left with plenty to celebrate. The Central Americans, who arrived with a record of six defeats in as many games at previous U-17 World Cups, emerged as arguably the surprise package so far. Following the historic 2-1 victory over the hosts in their first match, the Los Catrachos battled to a last-gasp draw against the Slovaks, ultimately securing second place and a berth in the last sixteen.
The Europeans showed plenty of spirit and the will to fight back in adversity, refusing to be thrown off course by the heavy opening match defeat and the agony of surrendering victory at the death in their second game. They made light of going a man down in their final fixture and recorded a merited 2-0 victory over UAE which was to see them reach the knockout rounds as one of the best third-place finishers.
That defeat sealed the hosts’ bitter disappointment at their showing on home soil. They become the third U-17 World Cup host nation after Canada (1987) and Trinidad and Tobago (2001) to exit the tournament with no points.
The meeting between Slovakia and Honduras was already into stoppage time with the Europeans clinging to a 2-1 lead when the Central Americans surged forward and won a corner. Following an almighty scramble in the box the ball found its way to Jorge Bodden, whose left-foot finish sparked joyous celebrations on the pitch and touchline, and ultimately saw his team into the last sixteen.
The jewels in the crown of a powerful Brazil team proved to be an attacking trio comprising playmaker Nathan and inside forwards Mosquito and Boschilia. The threesome supplied 11 of the South Americans’ 15 goals and proved an unplayable handful for all three opposing teams. Nathan in particular was an ethereal and elusive presence, sparkling both as a provider and finisher with five assists and four goals.
Slovakia forward Tomas Vestenicky also caught the eye in Group A as the east Europeans’ No9 managed a double strike in consecutive matches. Vestenicky’s key strength is versatility combined with good technique, a poacher’s ruthlessness, pace, heading ability and a powerful build - precisely the qualities most coaches are looking for in a modern striker.
15 – Brazil’s goals-scored total in the group phase beats their own tournament record from 2007.
"Of course we’ve gone out of the tournament but we picked up a lot of experience from the games. I don’t know why we didn’t play as well as we could have. It might be due to the lack of experience or maybe because it is the first time in front of so many fans. We trained a lot and we did everything we could. The players and everybody around the team did their best,” UAE coach Rashed Albedwawi.