Exactly 20 years have passed since Brazil and Portugal squared off in the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup. The pair go head-to-head again this Saturday at El Campin in Bogota in a re-run of the 1991 final.
Brazil and Portugal have met at the FIFA U-20 World Cup three times in the past, with the Europeans winning twice and the South Americans once. Amaral scored the only goal of the game to hand Portugal victory in the 1989 semi-finals, and the Portuguese triumphed again two years later, winning the 1991 final 4-2 on penalties. The most recent clash came in the 1995 semi-finals, when a Caio strike was enough to see Brazil through to the final.
Road to the final
Brazil opened with a muted 1-1 draw against Egypt, but the junior Seleção shifted smoothly up through the gears in their next two matches, defeating Austria 3-0 and Panama 4-0 and comfortably winning their group. Round-of-16 opponents Saudi Arabia had been the surprise package of the tournament up to that point, but the Brazilians were by then in their stride and cruised to a 3-0 victory.
The last eight brought the mouth-watering prospect of a clash with a very good Spain side, and the Pereira crowd were duly treated to a thriller than ended with the South Americans squeezing through 4-2 on penalties. Ney Franco's side stayed true to their rousing attacking style in the semi-final against Mexico, deservedly winning 2-0 and booking a place in the decider.
Brazil have wowed the crowds and pundits alike with some sparkling attacking football, and have scored 15 goals at the tournament so far. Striker Henrique has emerged as the deadliest sharp-shooter with five of those goals, followed not far behind by Philippe Coutinho and Dudu on three apiece.
While Brazil were title favourites even before a ball was kicked, Portugal were dark horses at best, making their progress to the final a genuine surprise. That said, the road to Bogota has also been a lot less smooth for the Europeans than for their South American rivals.
Portugal actually finished the group stage with exactly the same number of points as A Seleção, but the former's matches were tight with the emphasis on defence. They began with a goalless draw against Uruguay, before two 1-0 victories over Cameroon and New Zealand. The last sixteen clash with Guatemala produced yet another 1-0 win, while the quarter-final against Argentina remained goalless for 120 minutes and was ultimately settled on penalties. The Portuguese reserved their best display so far for the semi-final against France, scoring more than one goal in a match for the first time in Colombia with a 2-0 victory.
Not since 1997 has a team made it all the way to the final while scoring as few goals as Portugal, but on the other hand, keeper Mika has yet to concede a goal in normal or extra time. Indeed, the Europeans are only 19 minutes short of equalling Brazil’s record of 634 minutes without conceding at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
8 – Brazil are through to the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup for the eighth time. The South Americans have won the trophy four times, most recently at the 2003 edition in the United Arab Emirates. Portugal have a 100 percent record in the final after reaching and winning it twice, at the 1989 tournament in Saudi Arabia and on home soil in 1991.
"It’s a clash between contrasting schools of thought – and not just the Portuguese school versus the Brazilian school. It’ll be a meeting between the European and the South American schools. Brazil and Portugal have played some very big games over the years and I’m sure this one won’t be any exception. The team which ends up winning will have deserved it,“ Brazil coach Ney Franco.
“Re-running the final of 20 years ago will be very interesting. Brazil are a great team, and very strong opponents. It’s a final without a favourite - although Brazil are automatically the favourites, because I regard Portugal as the underdogs at this tournament. Brazil are South American champions, but Portugal are not European champions. We only qualified as Europe’s fifth-best team, although we’ve now beaten the European champions [France]. It’s what was needed to help us turn the corner. In the final, we’ll try and keep doing what we’ve done best so far, which is play effective football,” Portugal coach Ilidio Vale.