With four points already in the bag, section leaders Brazil need just a point in their final Group E game to guarantee a Round of 16 berth here at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011. Up against them in the match in Barranquilla are Panama, on one point and without a goal so far, who need a shock success to keep their own hopes alive.
On the back of their 3-0 win over Austria and boasting a clutch of players with experience in the world’s top leagues, Ney Franco’s Brazil are clear favourites to win Thursday’s encounter. However, the knocks picked up by Alex Sandro, Henrique and Casemiro against the Austrians have set alarm bells ringing for A Seleção, who are aiming to go one better than the class of 2009 – beaten finalists on Egyptian soil.
Panama, for their part, know only a win will pave their way towards making history and reaching the last 16. And though coach Alfredo Poyatos has stated his charges are at a low ebb after the 1-0 defeat against Egypt, he has promised they will give their all to pull off an against-the-odds victory over A Verde e Amarelo.
“Against Austria the team showed they’re in very good form, and have improved on their opening performance against Egypt. Our aim is to grow gradually stronger with each game and to keep doing that all the way to the final. It won’t be easy, but that’s our goal,” Brazil coach Ney Franco.
“The form of some of our players has really dipped compared to the tournaments we played before coming to Colombia. Perhaps it’s a mental issue, the weight of responsibility on their shoulders, but for as long as we’re still in with a chance we’ll give it everything we’ve got,” Panama coach Alfredo Poyatos.