FIFA: The 52nd and Final match of the FIFA World Youth Championship UAE 2003 was billed as the most prolific attack, Brazil, versus the meanest defence, Spain.
But in the end, the highlight of the 23rd day’s play turned out to be a far more complicated affair: the 4th-minute sending off of Spanish centre-half Melli finally proved decisive as a Fernandinho goal three minutes from time gave the South Americans a record-equalling fourth youth crown in front of 55,000 fans at the Zayed Sports City stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Earlier, Colombia, FIFA Fair Play winners, triumphed over Argentina to grab third-place.
It was a case of hero turned villain though for Fernandinho. Three minutes after scoring and 20 after entering the field, the midfielder was given his marching orders after a scuffle. Coach Paqueta, though, will have nothing but sweet dreams tonight and magic memories forever saved on the camcorder he has carried with him since leading the U-17 side to glorious victory only a few months ago in Finland. Against the same team, it was the same scoreline – though this time he was forced to wait 80 more minutes for the decisive strike.
The first half was a tale of two Daniels. Carvalho, who had released Nilmar on goal before he was brought down by Melli, and Alves, the roving right-back and adidas bronze ball winner who plays in Seville – the same city as the departed Spanish defender. With his cultured left foot, Carvalho posed constant danger to a nervous Furia rearguard, while only a spectacular save onto his crossbar by Riesgo kept out Alves’ flying scissor-kick and a lick of paint from a wickedly bent free kick.
Spain, like Brazil, may be without some of their star players for this tournament but team spirit has carried them through and in striker Sergio Garcia, the Europeans had an able deputy to Fernando Torres. The Barcelona man has linked up wonderfully well with Barcelona clubmate Andres Iniesta and against the odds and an extra man, the duo came closest to breaking down the Brazilian defence.
But the champions of four years ago were to be caught on a corner, from a similar situation as the first half when Adailton had struck the crossbar, with Fernandinho racing in to thunder his header past Riesgo and high into the net. Paqueta was the only man sitting as the crowd jumped out of their seats in joy.
Minutes later and before the presentations and fireworks, the happy Brazilians were lapping a stadium with more than its fair share of yellow shirts, basking in the glory of another victory. And among a tear-stricken Spanish side there was a touching moment as defender Carlos Garcia embraced the referee. “Espana, Espana” rang out from the Spanish section.
Colombia grab third
It was a fine opening act before the main performance. Both teams bowed out of the tournament on a high attacking at will and entertaining the packed crowd at the Zayed Sports City stadium to the very best of South American skill. The same nations had competed for third spot in the FIFA World U-17 Championship in Finland in August where Argentina won out on penalties. But it was the Cafeteros who picked up bronze this time for their best-ever finish at a FIFA tournament, capping an exhilarating year for Colombian youth sides.
Heavily involved was a player who had also appeared in Finland – Harrison Otalvaro. Getting his first run out in the finals, playing just behind the front two, the impish midfielder set up the first, on 16 minutes, with a sweet clipped pass that Erwin Carrillo headed brilliantly into the top corner from 15 yards. And after Osmar Ferreyra had curled a spectacular equalising free kick on the stroke of half-time, the 17-year old, teed up Edixon Perea to shoot with Jaime Castrillon banging in the saved effort.
Argentina pulverised the Colombian goal with time running out but Hector Landazuri, courageous and agile, kept all at bay. As the final whistle blew, the goalkeeper led Reinaldo Rueda’s youngsters over to the Colombian section of the massive crowd where they danced a jig of thanks while the fans beat their drums even louder, presenting the team with a giant yellow, blue and red Colombian flag.
At the end of the day’s play, the giant scoreboard in the imposing stadium flashed “CONGRATULATIONS” in huge letters. Not only to Brazil but to the four teams and all the nations that have graced the turf at UAE 2003. “SEE YOU IN THE NETHERLANDS 2005”.