After ACNFF of Congo, Real Madrid are the most-represented club
at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007. Next Wednesday, seven of
their players will gather at the Swangard Stadium in Burnaby for
the Round of 16 meeting between Spain and Brazil.
Antonio Adan, Javi Garcia, Alberto Bueno, Esteban Granero, Adrian Gonzalez and Juan Manuel Mata will be sporting the red of Spain, with Marcelo lines up for the Auriverdes. The only other Merengue player, Poland striker Krzysztof Krol, will be in action the following day when his side take on Argentina.
Brazil's left-back Marcelo joined the Spanish giants in November 2006 and has already trained and travelled extensively with many of members of Gines Melendez's side. One player well-equipped to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the Brazilian is Spanish keeper and captain Adan, who had this to say about his club-mate: "He's a player who is always trying to get forward. He's your typical Brazilian wing-back who sometimes leaves you exposed at the back, so we need to capitalise on the spaces he leaves."
The skipper is also self-critical and accepts that to beat Brazil, his side will have to improve certain aspects of their play. "We're pleased to have made the knockout phase, but we've conceded too many goals - and all of them down to schoolboy errors. We'll have to work hard and really focus if things are going to work out well for us. We're going to face up to Brazil, and I feel we have what it takes to win the game," Adan insists.
"This is the game and we have to take advantage of it. Who knows if we'll get another chance to play against Brazil," he adds.
Striker Mata, who will not be sharing a dressing room with Adan next season after agreeing terms with Valencia, echoes the views of his keeper. "Being a special game, we're all very motivated. We know that to win the World Cup you have to be able to beat anyone, and taking down Brazil would do wonders for our confidence ahead of the quarter-finals," says the author of the one of the goals against Zambia.
"Brazil weren't as good as expected in their group games. They've had trouble at the back, and teams have caused them problems on the break. But their pride has been hurt and that will make them very dangerous when they face us," says Mata.
The player's main strike partner during last year's victorious UEFA European Championship, Alberto Bueno, is another who is refusing to underestimate the Brazilians, despite the fact that they only finished third in their group. "We know they can play much better, but all we're concerned about is playing our own game," he explains. After a long and intense season in Spain, the players will not only have to battle physical tiredness, but also mental fatigue, as evidenced by their lapses in concentration during certain phases of their group games.
"Against Brazil, our chances will come down the wings, and we'll have to get a lot of balls down there. That's our main weapon," says Mata. "It's a game we're really motivated for. Both of us have strong teams, and we know it's going to be a tough game as well as a great spectacle," adds Bueno.
For his part, midfielder Esteban Granero feels the key to victory lies elsewhere. "Against Jordan, we felt very comfortable in the first half. Hopefully, we can play even better against Brazil. We need to maintain that kind of rhythm, move quickly and pass the ball well," says the No.10.
Another emphasising the importance of the fixture was midfielder Granero, who, summing up the mood in the camp, said, "It's a do-or-die game, and one which we aren't going to let get away from us, because we want to reach the final."
The entire Spanish contingent are confident they can beat Brazil. They also know that this is another opportunity to underline the value of home-grown talent at a time when huge transfer fees are being paid by Spanish clubs for young foreign players. "At international tournaments, Spain have always shown they have quality in their ranks, but when we return home, our clubs still continue to buy in foreign players," says a resigned Adan.
Who knows? Perhaps a win against Brazil could go some way to clubs rethinking that policy...