Their bid for a fourth title halted by England in the semifinals, Brazil will seek a consolation win when they take on Mali in the third-place play-off of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in what could turn out to be a high- scoring entertaining match on Saturday.
With little at stake after losing in the semifinals, both sides will go all out in their bid to sign off on a winning note and this bronze medal match could turn out to be a goal fest.
It is expected to be free-flowing contest between Brazil’s natural flair and the raw power and speed of an African side.
Brazil, the pre-tournament and crowd favourites, were distraught after their 1-3 loss to England in the semifinals on Wednesday. They would want to salvage some pride and give the Kolkata crowd one last chance to lustily cheer them.
Disappointed that they could not give back the love shown by the crowd with a title, Brazil players like Alan Souza, Lincoln and Paulinho have said that they would give their best in the bronze play-off match as a mark of respect for the faithful spectators.
Packed with skillful players in their ranks, Brazil surprisingly showed poor finishing in most of the matches. They scored three goals only once in a match — against minnows Honduras while the maximum goals in all their remaining games was two, even against the likes of North Korea and Niger.
The Carlos Amadeu-coached side, however, showed in the quarterfinal match against Germany that they can live up to the billing of being the pre-tournament favourites with a spectacular comeback but they could not repeat it in the semifinals as they were sent packing by a clearly better England side.
Brazil trailed behind Spain (in the group stage) and Germany but were able to recover in time and win their matches but it was not to be against the third European side they faced in the tournament.
Brazil were third time unlucky as their forwards showed poor finishing against England at the most crucial stage of the tournament which spelled doom for them.
Mali were seeking their maiden FIFA U-17 World Cup title after finishing runners-up in the last edition in Chile in 2015. They have been one of the most attacking sides in the tournament with 16 goals from six matches.
They play an open and attacking game which can be gleaned from the fact that they have the most number of attempts by any team in this tournament.
Mali made a staggering 157 attempts at the opposition goal in six matches out of which 73 were off target. This shows that they are an adventurous side looking for goals all the time. With their preferred 4-1-4-1 formation, they used to press with more men when attacking.
As shown against Spain in the semifinals, even while trailing, they pressed for goals with a lot of men upfront though the opposition can use this to their advantage with fast counter-attacks.
Mali striker Lassana Ndiaye has been in roaring form and he is in contention for the Golden Boot. He has scored six goals from as many matches, the same number of goals with Spain’s Abel Ruiz but one less than England’s Rhian Brewster.
Both sides may, however, rest some of their regular players and give chance to those who have been warming the bench though keeping the core of their respective teams intact.