FIFA U-17 World Championship Egypt 1997

FIFA U-17 World Championship Egypt 1997

26 October - 17 November

#WorldCupAtHome

#WorldCupAtHome: Ronaldinho's Brazil prevail in U-17 rematch

Brazil came from behind to beat defending champions Ghana 2-1 to claim their maiden FIFA U-17 World Cup title at Egypt 1997.

With an attacking line-up that included Abel, Matuzalem, Fabio Pinto and rising star Ronaldinho, the South Americans put the finishing touches to a tournament they dominated from start to finish.

The summary

Brazil 2-1 Ghana
21 September 1997, Cairo International Stadium, Cairo

Goalscorers: Brazil: Matuzalem (63'), Andrey (87'), Ghana: Owusu Afriyie (39')

Line-ups:
Brazil: Fabio, Andrey (Henrique 88'), Fernando, Abel, Jorginho, Diogo Rincon (Geovanni 54'), Ferrugem (c), Fabio Pinto, Ronaldinho, Matuzalem (Rogerio 89'), Gaviao

Ghana: Osei Boateng, Abdul Razak, Awule Quaye (Isaac Owusu 55'), Abdul Issah, Hamza Mohammed, Wisdom Abbey (Michael Coffie 73'), Emmanuel Adjogu, Godwin Attram (c), Aziz Ansah, Daniel Quaye, Owusu Afriyie

The stakes

Prior to 1997, the FIFA U-17 World Cup had remained frustratingly elusive for Brazil. The country’s U-20 teams had already won the World Cup in their age category three times, so the pressure on their young side in Egypt was considerable. Adding even more drama to the showdown was the fact that their opponents were once again Ghana, who had beaten them 3-2 in the final of the previous edition two years earlier.

The Verde Amarela progressed through the competition in impressive style. In the first phase they brushed aside Austria (7-0), USA (3-0) and Oman (3-1) to top Group C, before beating Argentina (2-0) in the quarter-finals and booking their place in the decider with an emphatic rout of Germany (4-0).

Ghana, for their part, were one of the strongest teams in the history of the fledgling competition. Appearing in their fourth consecutive world final, they had been victorious at Italy 1991 and Ecuador 1995, and runners-up at Japan 1993.

The Black Starlets unsurprisingly topped Group D thanks to a scoreless draw with Argentina and victories over Bahrain (5-1) and Costa Rica (2-0). In the quarter-final they eased past Oman (4-1) before denying Spain (2-1) in the last four.

The story

The final began at pace with early chances for Ghana courtesy of striker Emmanuel Adjogu, who on more than one occasion tested the Seleção keeper.

Brazil were also determined to take the game to their opponents and carved out chances of their own, notably from set-pieces, one of which forced Boateng to push a shot out for a corner while at full stretch.

In the end it was Ghana who drew first blood in the final minutes of the first half. A low, threaded pass found its way through the Brazilian defence and into the path of Owusu Afriyie. With just the keeper to beat and no more than 12 yards out, the player made no mistake by slotting it low into the corner with his first touch.

Running out for the second half, Brazil knew that their title aspirations hinged on their continuing to press and remaining patient.

The equaliser eventually came courtesy of Matuzalem, who, from perhaps three yards out, poked a rebound home after the keeper could only parry a Ronaldinho shot.

The joy of scoring the title-winning goal fell to Andrey, just as extra time seemed inevitable. After getting in behind the defence to collect a wonderful through ball from Ronaldinho, the player dinked it over the onrushing keeper to spark wild celebrations.

The star

Although he did not pick up any of the individual awards at the tournament, it is hard to look beyond Ronaldinho. Even at this early age, the Brazilian was beginning to show those flashes of magic that would later catapult him to global stardom. At Egypt 1997 he impressed in the No10 shirt and weighed in with two goals of his own.

What they said

"The most beautiful moment of the tournament was undoubtedly when we’d secured the world title and I was able to get my hands on the trophy. This was a first for Brazil, so to experience that was something incredible."
Ronaldinho, reflecting years later on the match

What happened next

After making the breakthrough at Egypt 1997, Brazil would go on to enjoy a lot more success in the competition. Two years later they retained the title at New Zealand 1999 and are currently the second most-successful team in the tournament’s history with four world crowns – one fewer than Nigeria. Today they are reigning world champions again after triumphing on home soil in 2019.

Ghana, for their part, have had more modest results in the intervening years, finishing third at New Zealand 1999 and fourth at Korea 2007.

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