x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Nathan’s name on everyone’s lips

Nathan, the Brazil No 10 led his side to a 3-1 win over Russia to advance to the quarter-finals of the Fifa Under 17 World Cup.

Nathan, left, orchestrated most of Brazil’s attacks, while Dimitriy Barinov, right, was sent off for Russia. Marwan Naamani / AFP
Nathan, left, orchestrated most of Brazil’s attacks, while Dimitriy Barinov, right, was sent off for Russia. Marwan Naamani / AFP

Brazil 3

Mosquito 72’, Boschilia 80’, 90+3’

Russia 1

Makarov 90+1’

Sent off

Barinov (Russia)

ABU DHABI // Brazilian Ronaldo, Gianluigi Buffon, Fernando Torres, Cesc Fabregas, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and many more. Fans attending the Fifa Under 17 World Cup will by the end the tournament be very familiar with the young talent that this tournament has produced over the years.

Replays of their finest exploits have been played, and played again, on the big stadium screen before kick off and during half time of every match.

It did not take a football expert to identify the player most likely to grace the Russia 2018 or Qatar 2022 World Cups. Wearing No 10 for Brazil, Nathan has often been head and shoulders above those around him, yet another Brazilian star in the making.

They do not just give that number to anyone, you know.

On Monday night, he led his country to the quarter-finals after a 3-1 win over Russia at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. With a little help from his friends, most notably the buzzing Mosquito and potent Boschilia.

But for long periods, this was not the display of joga bonito, or “beautiful play”, that we already are demanding from this young team. Perhaps unfairly.

With healthy support among the 4,624 in stands, it was Russia who settled in as the quicker of the two teams, although they created very little up front.

The European champions were clearly a level up from the teams that Brazil had met in what turned up to be an embarrassingly easy group stage.

Playing in a slightly advanced position than in the group matches, Nathan initially struggled to impose himself on the match.

He had already scored four goals in the competition; twice against both Slovakia and the UAE. He rarely looked likely to add to that tally in the first half.

With full-back Auro overlapping like a young Dani Alves, Brazil’s best openings came from the right wing. On the half-hour he delivered sumptuous cross that the advancing Nathan almost converted. From the resulting corner, Brazil had their first real opening, when Danilo’s header met with a superb fingertip save by Anton Mitryushkin.

Brazil were getting frustrated, and Boschilia – the tournament’s leading scorer – was stupidly booked for diving in the penalty area and will now miss the next match. Nathan’s opposite No 10, Alexandr Golovin, was showing a few tricks of his own for Russia.

There was little show to show for the first-half effort by both sides, except tired legs. The fans enjoyed a balmy evening, but the players were feeling the heat, taking every opportunity to grab drinks on the sideline.

We had come expecting a masterclass from Nathan and Brazil, but the first half finished scoreless.

A team huddle before the start of the second half signalled Brazil’s intent. In the next five minutes, they peppered Mitryushkin’s goal with shots. Boschilia hit the side netting from a tight angle. Nathan had a couple of makeable shots. And Boschilia then wastefully passed to substitute Kenedy when he could have shot himself.

It was mostly Brazil, with the occasional Russian counter-attack. But no goals.

Then, an unexpected window for Brazil. On 70 minutes, Dmitriy Barinov was sent off for a late challenge on Auro and Nathan and company sensed a breakthrough.

Sure enough, minutes later, Mosquito sidefooted the opener after some wonderful wing play from Auro for a 1-0 lead.

It came on 80 minutes. Boschilia, having endured a frustrating night, scored with a superb sidefoot, and Brazil were on their way to the quarter-finals.

They endured a brief scare when Russian winger Aleksandr Makarov scored a solo goal, but Boschilia scored his second of the day, and sixth of the competition, to put the Selecao through.

It may have been a struggle at some points but in the end, Brazil were once again just too good for their opponents. Can anyone stop Nathan, Boschilia and Mosquito?


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