Brazil against Germany is a world-class contest: Amadeu
Just how significant a role can a stadium play in the fate of a football nation?
Ask Brazil; more specifically ask their World Cup team of 1950 about the Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, or their team from 64 years later about the Mineirao, Belo Horizonte.
Ahead of their U-17 World Cup quarterfinal against Germany -- the same nation that handed them a 7-1 defeat at the senior level in a home semi-final in 2014 -- it was hardly surprising that after their practice session just outside the Salt Lake Stadium, Brazil coach Carlos Amadeu took his team for a stroll inside the ground on Saturday morning.
"When we come to know of a new stadium, we make sure we watch the stands, and imagine the crowd," said Amadeu. "It is not about knowing the grass but to be able to feel the soul of the stadium. We are imagining how it would be to play in front of 60,000 people."
Striker Paulinho from Vasco da Gama, whose two goals in this World Cup included the winner in the 2-1 win over Spain that set Brazil's campaign rolling, said that his team was looking forward to feeding off the energy of the crowd for their game. "I have never played in front of 60,000 people, though there were 40,000 people once when I was playing for my club, and they were all rooting for the other team," he said. "Here I hope the public will support Brazil and we expect it to be a positive for us."
Brazil and Germany have history even at the U-17 level, with the first of their six encounters dating back to the first edition in China in 1985, when the erstwhile West Germany played out the only draw between these nations. In five other games, Brazil hold the upper hand overall with three wins to two. Germany have won two of three meaningful knockout games though, including a 4-3 win in the third-place match in Mexico in 2011.
"Brazil against Germany is a world-class contest across all age groups," said Amadeu. "Both teams try to play, and they will never sit back and allow the other team to score. Everybody wins in this situation -- the crowds, the media, and the professionals associated with both teams. We tell our players to be balanced -- if we are losing, we must reverse the situation in our favour, and if we are winning, we have to keep it going. We have been preparing since 2015, but one thing you can't control is the result. You can control your style of play."
Germany will be playing the match without suspended striker Dennis Jastrzembski of Hertha Berlin, and also have concerns around Freiburg midfielder Yannik Keitel's fitness. Brazil themselves might miss Sao Paulo's Weverson through injury, in which case they might field Luan Candido of Palmeiras at left-back. Amadeu, though, believed these exigencies won't impact either side.
"When you have so many matches in such a short period of time, there will always be fatigue due to matches, travel and weather conditions," he said. "You can lose a player through suspension. When we picked our 21, we picked players who could perform more than one role, and I am sure Germany is no exception to this. We have played teams in Europe, Africa, North America and Asia. We have received teams in Brazil as well. We have trained ourselves in all kinds of situations -- in some matches we emphasized on defence, and in offence in some of the others. In one match, we attacked more through our wingers, and in another we attacked more through the midfield. We have tried to ensure that if a team beats us, it is only if they play better than us."
Paulinho, who identified Cristiano Ronaldo as his inspiration due to his "ambition" and since he "always looks to better himself through practice", felt the presence of scouts from the best clubs around the world was not a pressure for his teammates. "The presence of the scouts shows the kind of opportunity we have during this tournament," he said. "But right now, we are focused on the competition. It is not a pressure, but an opportunity to us."
Champions in 1997, 1999 and 2003, Brazil are making their 16th appearance at the U-17 finals -- a record they share with the U.S. -- and are looking to make at the semis for the sixth time. Each performance has invariably helped their best players find top clubs in Europe in years to come. The word the affable Brazil media manager Gregorio has been using while translating for the coach and players is "consequences", when talking of player developments and future career prospects.
Amadeu had an interesting insight into what made this team stay true to the traditions of Brazilian football. "I can't compare generations. This generation is a very good one, but Brazil has always provided players of great talent," he said, adding that whatever market value they have further will be a result of their efforts here.
"They need to be professional with whatever they are doing -- whether they are having lunch or training or playing on the field. Paulinho here has been doing that across all age levels at his Vasco da Gama club, and he has given something back to his club. Whatever will happen from here is a consequence of that. Scouts are seeing them in club matches, friendlies and in South American matches as well. What they get to see at this World Cup is a just a confirmation of how they know these players to be."
On Sunday, the entire world will get to know, and so too will the Salt Lake Stadium.