KOCHI: ‘Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.’ This could well be the slogan of the Brazil U-17 national team who are up against European champions Spain in the Group D opener of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Kochi on Saturday.
Missing out on a player who has been central to their continental triumph can wreak havoc to the title odds of a team, and more so when the player who is missing is the supremely skilled Vinicius Jr. But not when that team is Brazil.
They have an abundance of talent in their country and players are raring to fill his shoes.
“In Brazil when a child is born, the first gift for him is a ball. Our relationship with football is huge. We are a footballing nation and we like that,” said coach Carlos Amadeu.
“We have many clubs producing footballers and for this select group of players to be here is a pleasure,” the coach said on the eve of the game. “We started our preparations back in 2015 and all my players know how to play with Vinicius and without him,” he said.
Amadeu said his boys can play in ways more than one, which will make it tougher for the Europeans on Saturday.
“We have many ways and are thoroughly drilled. We can play with a high line and a low line. That is why we are confident in these guys,” he said. At their victorious U-17 South American Championship campaign in Chile earlier this year, Brazil employed a 4-4-2 system against Paraguay, 4-3-3 against Colombia and 3-4-3 versus the host nation — proving the Brazil U-17 coach’s point.
In nine matches at the tournament, the Brazilian defence comprising captain Vitao, Lucas Halter, Weverson and Wesley let in only three goals.
“Our attack starts with the defenders and our defence start with our attackers,” Vitao said on Friday.
Lincoln, who was the second highest scorer behind Vinicius at Chile, will look to step up while Sao Paulo’s Brenner will be the only big change taking Vinicius’ position.
“My job is to prepare these boys for their club sides and Brazil senior side of Tite,” Amadeu said.
On the other hand, Spain are also without one of their star performers in their ranks: Alejandro Orellana.
“This is the most difficult group of the World Cup and it is very important to win the first match. Brazil are the favourites and winning will definitely lift our spirits,” said their coach Santiago Denia.
Asked whether pollical tensions back home will affect the team’s display in the World Cup, Denia said, “We have come here to win the World Cup as a united country. We are here to play football.”