The young Socceroos proved there is still plenty of talent bubbling through from down under. Mental toughness combined with a dose of Latin skill meant Australia had just the right variety to spice up another tight group of competing continents.
1. Australia 7 pts
Coach Ange Postecoglou had said Australia’s new youth crop was one to watch out for and slowly but surely they backed up his warning with impressive displays, culminating in the shock 3-2 win against Brazil to top the group. Backbone is perhaps the young Socceroos greatest asset. From Nathan Coe in goal, David Tarka in defence, Carl Valeri in midfield and Alex Brosque up front, they have a top quality central column. As well as the traditional Australian fighting spirit, this team also shows belief in its own ability, best portrayed by the way they refused to be technically intimidated by the Brazilians.
2. Brazil 4 pts
As with every Brazilian side, no matter what category, much was expected of the canary yellows and of who the next big “inhos, ertos and aldos” in football could be. With Kleber’s twists and turns, Daniel Carvalho’s accurate left foot and Adailton and Daniel’s forays forward, there is no lack of talent among the young selecao. But there has only been flashes of brilliance in a team coach Paqueta admits he is still tinkering with. Most noticeably, the new batch seems to lack a cutting edge up front, something, though, which might be remedied in the later rounds by Dagoberto, the striker who has now finally recovered from injury.
3. Canada 3 pts
Few gave Canada much of a chance of qualifying for the next phase after their second defeat of the finals against Australia, least of all coach Dale Mitchell. But, even as some suggested it was mathematically impossible, the young Canucks never gave up and with ten minutes of their final match to play, striker Iain Hume scored his and Canada’s second goal of the championship for the 1-0 victory against the Czech Republic. Tenacious, quick and with the ability to shoot with either foot, Hume has the inner confidence to make a name for himself. At the other end of the field, Atiba Hutchinson, tall, fast and composed on the ball, complements his friend and the team perfectly.
4. Czech Republic 2 pts
Despite taking the lead in the opening match against Australia, the Czechs were never really comfortable in the UAE. Coach Pavel Vrba appeared to be uncertain in his mind how to handle the loss of two key players – Pavel Fort and Martin Latka – for the first match. Two stunning strikes from David Limbersky showed the left-winger to be in the mould of his idol Pavel Nedved, while captain Tomas Sivok always found time on the ball. But the disruption of the returning two took its toll in the final match as a missed penalty (Fort’s) and a sending off before the winning goal seemed to say it all for Vrba.