World Cup favourites Germany and Brazil found their task tougher than expected as they scraped to opening wins, while FIFA competition newcomers, Niger made history.
GERMANY 2-1 COSTA RICA
Substitute Noah Awuku’s late strike helped Germany to a 2-1 win over Costa Rica in their opening Group C encounter of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Goa.
The Germans took time to settle down but once they did, there was no looking back, as they came up with swift moves from the flanks and took the lead in the 21st minute. Nicolas Kuuehn was often the playmaker in the middle and split the rival defence with a through pass to striker Jann-Fiete Arp, who opened the scoring with a deft chip.
The Germans did the bulk of attacking but Costa Rica found the equaliser against the run of play after the hour mark. A swift move from the left saw Josue Abarca send a low cross into the box for Andres Gomez, who beat German goalkeeper Luca Plogmann with a stiff grounder.
The match looked set to be heading to a draw despite Germany’s run of play but Awuku was the late hero for Christian Wuck’s men when the substitute found the net after a defender failed to receive a cross from the right.
BRAZIL 2-1 SPAIN
Brazil came back from a goal down to beat Spain 2-1 in Group C, courtesy of first-half strikes from Lincoln and Paulinho.
It was Spain that made a bright start to the contest at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium, taking the lead through a Wesley own-goal just five minutes in. The Brazil defender could not avoid finding the back of his own net after Ferran Torres delivered a dangerous low cross from the right that nearly picked out his team-mate Mohamed Moukhliss at the far post.
Yet, it was from falling behind that Brazil took control of the first half, with Paulinho and Brenner looking particularly dangerous. The South Americans’ pressure paid off on 25 minutes, as Lincoln took advantage of a Spanish defensive error in their six-yard box to equalise.
That allowed A Seleção to claim the lead just before the half-time whistle, as Paulinho latched on to Marcos Antonio’s fine through-ball before beating Spain goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez with a rising finish. Spain did better in the second half and pressed hard for the equaliser, but Brazil’s defence stood firm.
IRAN 3-1 GUINEA
Goals from Allahyar Sayyad, Mohammed Sharifi and substitute Karimi Saeid helped Iran begin their U17 World Cup campaign with a comfortable 3-1 win over Guinea in a Group C on Saturday.
After an evenly played first half, in which the best chance fell to Guinea, the match went Iran’s way after the break. From seemingly nothing near the hour mark, Allahyar launched an early candidate for goal of the tournament, with a 20-yard blast ‘into the top corner’ to the Guinean goalkeeper’s right. Mohammad Sharifi converted a penalty 10 minutes later after Cherif Camara’s rash challenge in the box saw him sent off for a second yellow card.
The Asian side put the match out of reach after Saeid Karimi converted from a mistake by goalkeeper Ibrahima Sylla in the closing minutes, but the Africans showed fight at the death, as Toure added a consolation goal in second-half stoppage time.
NORTH KOREA 0-1 NIGER
Salim Abdourahmane’s 59th-minute strike helped debutants Niger eke out a 1-0 win over North Korea in their Group D opener at the U-17 World Cup on Saturday.
It was Korea DPR, however, that had the better of the first-half exchanges in Kochi. The closest the Asians went to scoring before the break was through captain Yun Min, as his effort the struck the crossbar.
After the interval, it was the FIFA debutants that looked more convincing as an attacking unit. This resulted in a historic moment just before the hour mark. Some good work on the right flank by Habibou Sofiane allowed him to find an unmarked Abdourahmane in the Korea DPR box. With time to pick his spot, the striker slotted his shot past goalkeeper Sin Tae-Song for a 1-0 lead.
Abdourahmane could have found the back of the net twice again, but, in the end, the single goal was enough for Niger to claim a famous result.
This article is written by Shantanu Ambekar, you can follow him on Twitter at @ShantanuAmbekar. What are your thoughts? Let us know by dropping a comment via our comments box below. Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Google+, Instagram and like us on Facebook.