Brazilians bring carnival atmosphere to Zurich
© Foto-net

With thrilling matches, goals galore, exciting duels and an incredible atmosphere in the stands, the 76th edition of the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup was another resounding success. More than 15,000 spectators, including FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, packed into the Buchlern sports complex in Zurich over the two days of the tournament and were rewarded with top-class football action.

With two weeks to go before the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, it was fitting that one of the country’s representatives Atletico Paranaense emerged triumphant in this prestigious and historic youth competition. The team from World Cup host city Curitiba prevailed after a nail-biting 1-0 win over Benfica to round off a flawless tournament debut and spark exuberant celebrations.

Before the final got underway, a samba group, complete with dancers, had already created a jubilant mood, providing a sample of this summer’s World Cup atmosphere with their music and rhythms. The sounds of their homeland seemed to spur Atletico’s young stars on to success, with Gustavo scoring the winning goal for Paranaense in the 30th minute after some impressive build-up play. After the game, the young playmaker was awarded the adidas Golden Ball for player of the tournament, giving him further cause to celebrate. Goalkeeper Macanhan kept a clean sheet to round off a string of robust performances. The Brazilians’ triumph was completed as Macanhan was named the competition’s best goalkeeper.

Benfica dominate the group stages
Benfica entered the final as slight favourites, having been the only side to win all four of their group games - which they did without conceding a single goal. After a 1-0 triumph over hosts FC Blue Stars, a 3-0 win against Ghanaian side Asante Kotoko and victory by the same margin over Spain’s Villarreal, Benfica sealed their place in the final by defeating 2012 and 2013 Youth Cup winners FC Zurich 1-0.

Atletico Paranaense also remained unbeaten in their group but were forced to settle for 1-1 draws against Grasshoppers and Olympiacos. However, a 1-0 win over Bayern Munich and a 3-0 victory against FC Sion were enough to see the Brazilians through to the final.

Derby in bronze medal match
The battle for third place was an explosive local derby between FC Zurich and Grasshoppers. The teams contested a captivating duel that was ultimately decided by penalties. Hoppers goalkeeper Senad Mujovik made two crucial saves to wrap up the tie for his team and disappoint the defending champions, who had the consolation of receiving the tournament’s Fair Play award.

Elsewhere, Asante Kotoko ended their campaign on a high, defeating Olympiacos 2-0 in the match for fifth place while all the time being passionately supported by vociferous fans with drums and brass instruments.

Villarreal finished the tournament in seventh spot after seeing off Bayern Munich 2-0, while FC Sion posted a 2-0 win over FC Blue Stars to seal ninth place.

Final table:
1. Atletico Paranaense
2. Benfica
3. Grasshoppers
4. FC Zurich
5. Asante Kotoko
6. Olympiacos
7. Villarreal
8. Bayern Munich
9. FC Sion
10. FC Blue Stars

adidas Golden Ball:
Gustavo (Atletico Paranaense)

adidas Golden Glove:
Macanhan (Atletico Paranaense)

FIFA Fair Play Award:
FC Zurich