At first glance, the Group E match between Brazil and Austria at the Estadio Metropolitano de Barranquilla has a one-sided look about it. The statistics suggest that A Seleção are heavy favourites, with four titles and three runners-up slots in their 16 previous appearances at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Having also finished third on three occasions, the Brazilians boast an astonishing record of securing one of the top-three places ten times in the history of the event. Alongside this, the European side’s three appearances pale a little in comparison, even though they can point to an excellent fourth place in 2007 as evidence of tournament pedigree.
Nevertheless, the teams’ opening performances indicate that the encounter may be closer than expected, as both were left frustrated by dropping points to supposedly inferior opposition. Brazil were made to suffer at times in their 1-1 draw with Egypt, in a match that both sets of forwards would probably prefer to forget, while the Austrians’ 0-0 stalemate versus Panama showed that Andreas Heraf’s charges are capable of moving the ball around with some style, but the lack of end product will still concern them. Could Brazil’s shaken confidence and Austria’s creative approach provide the foundations for a shock result in Barranquilla?
Brazil-Austria, Barranquilla, Monday 1 August, 20.00 (local time)
At the beginning of the tournament, many observers would have dismissed this fixture as a straightforward three points for Brazil, but that was before witnessing the way in which Egypt managed to make the South Americans look ordinary at times during their initial match. The Austria game has suddenly become a must-win encounter for Ney Franco’s players, as it has for their opponents, held to a draw by Panama. The pressure will be most keenly felt by the respective strikeforces, who squandered numerous opportunities during their nations’ previous games. Against Egypt, Philippe Coutinho, Casemiro, Oscar and Co registered 15 shots on target, 12 corners and one solitary goal. Austria’s front line was no less wasteful, Andreas Weimann and Robert Zulj in particular missing gilt-edged chances to break the deadlock.
9 – The number of times a Brazilian has finished top scorer at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Despite the absence of Neymar and Lucas, the South Americans can again boast various candidates in their ranks who could raise the figure to ten.
Dudu, Brazil midfielder: “We couldn’t pull off a win in our first game, so we now need to do all we can to beat Austria. Every team lifts their game against us, so it won’t be easy. But I think we’re playing well, and that we’ll win the match."
Michael Schimpelsberger, Austria defender: “Even though we dropped two points against Panama, we’re satisfied with the fitness we showed, given the conditions. We qualified for Colombia 2011 by scoring a last-minute goal against the Netherlands at the European Championships, and I have a strong feeling we’ll do something similar here too.”