African outfit Congo pulled off the shock of the opening day with a 1-0 win over reigning European champions the Netherlands in Group A. The Dutch bossed possession and chances in the first-half at Morelia’s Estadio Morelos, but a defensive error early in the second allowed the Congolose side to take the lead, and from there they never looked back.
The Netherlands opened the game with the better of possession, but the powerful Africans were causing problems in midfield and hounding the 2011 UEFA U-17 EURO winners all over the pitch with their high-tempo style. The first chance of real consequence came midway through the half, when a lovely chipped ball from Anass Achahbar picked out Dutch striker Tonny Trindade de Vilhena racing in on goal. He managed to bulge the net, but the effort was called back for offside.
It proved the best chance of the half, along with Danzell Gravenberch’s shot that went just wide of the Congolese post. The Africans, for their part, employed a very vertical approach in the opening period and were restricted to a handful of hopeful efforts from long range from their rangy striker Bel Epako.
In the 50th minute, the Dutch came close to opening the scoring again when Achahbar used his blinding pace to get in behind the Congolese defence. Much to his dismay, however, goalkeeper Chill Ngakosso kept his cool to dive low and make a fine save. The Europeans kept up the pressure, but Congo’s lightning-quick counter-attack produced the crucial goal. Justalain Kounkou beat an ill-advised high offside trap, raced over 50 yards and slotted home at the near post against the run of play in the 53rd minute.
With the first-goal nerves out of the way, Congo began to turn on the style, penetrating up the flanks with a wide array of individual flicks and tricks. Mavis Tchibota had the fans on their feet with his dazzling moves up the left and cuts into dangerous attacking positions.
The Dutch will look to recapture the form that saw them crowned kings of Europe when they face Korea DPR, who lost to Mexico in their opener, on 21 June in Morelia. That same day, section leaders Mexico will take on Congo, who will have done their confidence no harm with their performance on Saturday.