Germany's Group E campaign at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 represented a declaration of intent, as the Europeans turned in three convincing displays, with a clutch of fine goals and some breathtaking passing moves. A balance of three wins out of three, 11 goals for and just one against speaks volumes.
Ecuador's progress to the last 16 was not really a surprise, but Panama's dogged resistance was less predictable. Luckless African champions Burkina Faso head for home after failing to register a point or a goal.
The final standings
1. Germany (9 points)
2. Ecuador (6)
3. Panama (3)
4. Burkina Faso (0)
Germany–USA, Queretaro, Thursday 30 June, 15.00 (local time)
Brazil–Ecuador, Guadalajara, Wednesday 29 June, 15.00 (local time)
Mexico–Panama, Pachuca, Thursday 30 June, 18.00 (local time)
The tale of the teams
Germany's maximum points in Group E were derived from a 6-1 victory over Ecuador, a 3-0 win over Burkina Faso, and a 2-0 victory over Panama, but despite all that, coach Steffen Freund refused to accept his team were now favourites for the trophy, preferring to hand that role to Brazil and Mexico.
By contrast, Ecuador were slow off the blocks and appeared in real danger when they trailed Panama 1-0 at half-time. But a workmanlike second-half saw them claw out a vital 2-1 victory and turn the corner. The 2-0 success against Burkina Faso in the final match saw them up to second place in the section, an outcome which did not seem particularly likely in the wake of the 6-1 collapse against Germany.
Newcomers Panama started as rank underdogs, but a shock 1-0 victory over African champions Burkina Faso forced a rapid reappraisal. Coach Jorge Dely Valdes' men also made a real fist of it in the first half against Ecuador, but although they were to lose their second and third matches, they still claimed a berth in the Round of 16, thereby adding a new and glorious chapter to the nation's footballing history.
Burkina Faso, on the other hand, had a tournament to forget. The African champions failed to garner a single point, and scored no goals while conceding six. It is the Africans’ worst record yet in their fourth tilt at the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Germany's scintillating 36 minutes
The score at half-time between Germany and Ecuador was only 1-0, and the South Americans even managed to equalise on 51 minutes. That goal acted like a starting gun for the Europeans, who netted five times in the space of just 36 minutes at Estadio Corregidora – the same ground where West Germany contested all three of their group matches en route to the 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico™ Final.
Dismay fails to quell African rhythms
True to form, supporters of the four African nations in Mexico have been literally drumming up a wonderful atmosphere with vibrant and catchy rhythms. The Burkina Faso fans in red and green made light of their heroes’ disappointing defeat to newcomers Panama, and never stopped their exuberant drumming.
Dancing in the rain
Towards the end of the first half between Panama and Ecuador, a torrential rainstorm descended on Queretaro. Most of the crowd ran for cover, but a mixed group of around 100 fans ignored the inclement weather, drumming and dancing joyfully just as before. By the end, the Ecuadorians among them were soaked to the skin but happy, as their team turned the game on its head and chalked up a first win of the tournament.
19 – Germany boss Steffen Freund used 19 of his 21 squad players during the three group matches. The only players to miss out were the two reserve keepers.
"We never thought we'd be knocked out of the competition without a point and without a single goal. Like all the other countries, we came here aiming to qualify for the last 16 and see if we could go on and win the trophy. But in the first match, it was already clear we lacked that certain something. There can be no doubt about that," Burkina Faso assistant coach Serafin Dargany.