KOCHI: Brazil and Spain have produced two of the greatest teams in the history of football. Picking one from the Pele-inspired Selecao of the 1970 World Cup, and the La Furia Roja which lifted the 2010 World Cup and the Euros two years later is a tough ask for any football enthusiast.
So, when the young guns from the two footballing superpowers touched down in the city and were put through their paces by their coaches on Tuesday, it was no surprise that hundreds flocked to watch and cheer the youth who could go on to star for their favourite national teams in the near future.
With the U-17 sides of the two nations as well as DPR Korea and Niger, the other teams in the Group D, arriving in Kochi for the FIFA U-17 World Cup during the day, the feeling is that the World Cup fever has finally struck Kochi, one of the six host cities.
Spain were the first team to reach in an Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi in early hours of the day and trained at Veli Ground in Fort Kochi from 6 pm. Football aficionados, young and old, were in attendance an hour before the team arrived and cheered them on as they went through a light training session.
Spain’s player to watch Abel Ruiz, a product of the famed La Masia academy of FC Barcelona, was part of the session. The Spanish side boasts of four youngsters from Barca and five from Real Madrid. Brazil landed in Kochi by 1.20 pm after a week-long stay in Mumbai and trained under coach Carlos Amadeu at the Maharaja’s College Stadium from 6 pm. Flamengo starlet Vinicus Jr was conspicuous by his absence, but the rest of 20 registered players including midfielder Alan de Souza and Vinicius’ club teammate Lincoln trained.
Meanwhile, North Korea, who reached the Round of 16 in the last edition of the tournament, chose not to train after landing in the afternoon. Niger, set to appear in their maiden World Cup, arrived in the evening and cancelled their training session too.
But the fans got what they wanted. Spain and Brazil, along with Argentina, are two of the most followed teams in this part of the country and there is no doubt that the stadium will be a full house when the two sides meet at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium here on Saturday.
The number of times Spain have participated in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup. They are yet to lift the trophy.
Brazil are the second most successful team with 3 titles. Nigeria are five-time champs.