THE DAY REPLAYED - South America’s representatives sent an unmistakable message, loud and clear, to the rest of the competitors on UAE 2013’s opening matchday. Brazil trumpeted their intentions of hoisting yet another U-17 world title with a 6-1 demolition of Slovakia, while Uruguay did them one better in a 7-0 rout of New Zealand.
Goals were significantly less plentiful in the night’s later matches as Italy, historically so cautious, beat Côte d'Ivoire by the bare minimum of 1-0 and Honduras pulled off a historic 2-1 win against the brave hosts in Abu Dhabi.
Group A – Abu Dhabi
Brazil 6-1 Slovakia
United Arab Emirates 1-2 Honduras
Group B – Ras Al-Khaimah
Uruguay 7-0 New Zealand
Côte d'Ivoire 0-1 Italy
Top-scorer hunt hots up early
Brazilian sensation Mosquito packs a real bite, just ask poor Slovakia. He raced to the top of the scorer’s chart with a three-goal performance on opening day in Abu Dhabi. The pacey, skillful striker from club side Atletico Paranaense looks a good bet to finish top scorer in UAE if he can keep up the form. But he already has some serious chasers, like club and country team-mate Nathan, who grabbed two in the rout, and Uruguay’s Leandro Otormin. The Nacional prodigy hit the net twice in Uruguay’s drubbing of New Zealand and helped set up two more.
Reluctant lieutenant in the limelight
With Brazilian head coach Alexandre Gallo suspended for A Seleção’s opener, assistant Mauricio Copertino had no choice but to slump himself down in the hot-seat. Clearly a behind-the-scenes man, the humble and soft-spoken Copertino looked nervous throughout the game and was quite happy to hand the reins back over as soon as possible to his boss and old friend. The two played together for three seasons with Santos in the 1990s and have been a coaching duo for the last eight years. “He’s the leader of this team, not me,” Copertino said after the 6-1 win. “One game in charge is enough for me,” he added with a wink before drifting out of the press conference room, down the hall, and back into the shadows.
UAE’s only fireworks off the field
Unfortunately, the only fireworks provided by the host nation came in the opening ceremony in Abu Dhabi. Before the home side took the pitch for their disappointing 2-1 loss to Honduras, the local organisers laid on quite show, complete with a stunning pyrotechnic display that exploded across the night sky in the shape and colours of the Emirate flag. Throngs of school children belted out the national anthem from the terraces, but it still couldn’t help out the home-boys as they slumped to a surprise defeat.
Twin towers can’t measure up
Côte d'Ivoire and Italy boasted a pair of starting strikers so tall that they resembled the many minarets at UAE’s breathtaking mosques, rising up toward the heavens. The Ivorian Chris Bedia measures in at 1.89 metres and his Italian counterpart Alberto Cerri soars up 1.94 metres. The Italian captain was taller than everyone else on the pitch and only the Ivorian goalkeeper was taller than Bedia, and only by a hair. Their massive physical attributes didn’t serve them very well on the day, however, as neither one managed to score in a tense and tactical 1-0 win for Italy.
13 – goals were scored by the two South American sides – Uruguay and Brazil – in action on UAE 2013’s opening day. That's nine more more than the four other teams combined. On this kind of sizzling attacking form, who would doubt Uruguay’s chances of reaching the final of the tournament for second edition on the trot, or Brazil as a good a bet to claim their fourth junior world title?
“We traveled a long way, we’ve been together as a team for a while, to get to this tournament, to this game. We didn’t want to give Uruguay an early goal, we set up to keep them out early, so when they scored after three minutes it knocked our players right out of the game,” New Zealand coach Darren Bazeley, visibly depressed, contemplates where it all went wrong in the 7-0 loss to Uruguay.
Croatia-Morocco (Fujairah, 17:00)
Panama-Uzbekistan (Fujairah, 20.00)
Tunisia-Venezuela (Sharjah, 17:00)
Russia-Japan (Sharjah, 17:00)