Amadeu, Hay praise the turf and facilities available after a practice game, as the Samba Boys feel at home with the support.
It might have just been their junior national team, but Brazil, playing for the first time in Mumbai, displayed their usual flair and brilliance in front of the partisan crowd at the Mumbai Football Arena (MFA) on Thursday evening. Their opponents, New Zealand, showed grit and determination to deny the three- time U17 Fifa World Cup champions any goals, until striker Brenner da Silva struck both goals in the second half during the 2-1 win in their first practice game. The game, held at MFA Andheri Sports Complex, came ahead of the maiden Fifa World Cup in India beginning on October 6.
New Zealand captain Max Mata scored from the spot at the fag end as the Kiwis tested Brazil’s defense, but the Samba Boys held on to their lead. Understandably, Brazil, who have produced world-class players over the years and have been five-time Fifa World Cup champions at the senior level, enjoyed great support. Many Mumbaikars turned out in the trademark yellow jerseys, something which Brazilian head coach Carlos Amadeu admired after the game. “There were fans wearing yellow jerseys, which definitely boosted us. In Goa too, we received a similar response, when we were there last year (2016 BRICS U-17 Football Cup),” Amadeu said.
However, both teams would have liked to have more spectators so as to create a World Cup game atmosphere. Despite free entry, the spectator turnout was disappointing. The stadium wasn’t even half full, but some hard core fans did turn up. Besides a cracking game they were also treated to spot kicks, as part of preparations for the U17 World Cup, which Brazil won 5-4. The fact that the game took place on a weekday at 5 pm, could have been a reason for the poor turnout, according to fans. The known absence of Real Madrid pick Vinicius Junior, who is set to join the squad on Saturday may have also acted as a deterrent.
Both coaches praised the field of play and facilities available at the MFA. “The facilities and the pitch were very good for us. It was a really good experience,” Amadeu said. New Zealand head coach Daniel Hay also praised the venue. “The hospitality we have experienced here is top notch. And the MFA is an ideal ground — not too big — something which we don’t have in New Zealand. The facilities are also excellent,” Hay said.
Despite the low temperatures the Kiwis face back home, they gave glimpses of what to expect from them during their matches at DY Patil stadium in Navi Mumbai, despite the humid conditions. “They (Brazil) had more possession, we were chasing for most of the match. We created a couple of good chances but could not convert them. But I am happy with the work ethics of my boys against a world class team,” Hay said.
Despite Vinicius not playing, Brazil chose to shield main players like Alan de Souza and Lincoln, as they had played a lot of games in their domestic season. “I wanted to rest them,” Amadeu explained. Paulinho, has an ankle injury and has been rested for the game.
Marcos Anotonio was the forced change after Wesley’s injury. Alan and Lincoln were unleashed in the second half, and their presence made the difference as the Kiwi defence, which looked compact in the first half, started cracking. Alan was a live wire in the midfield, heading the role of playmaker. His partnership with Vinicius upfront will be something to watch out for.
Brazil, who will continue to train at MFA, had some injury concerns, as their defender Wesley limped off with a leg issue and a couple of their players suffered from niggles. Amadeu said he expected a physical game. “I was not surprised as New Zealand is a strong team physically,” he said.
Brazil is in Group D and start the U17 World Cup proceedings against European champions Spain in Kochi on October 7. New Zealand will start campaign against Turkey at DY Patil Stadium on October 6 in a Group B encounter. Prior to that, the All Blacks will play another practice game against England at Mumbai Football Arena on October 1.