There will be plenty of 2005 U-17 World Cup final shades at Estadio Bezerrão on Sunday.
On that clear night in Lima, Peru, the likes of Carlos Vela and Giovani dos Santos wrote history for Mexico, as they powered El Tri to its first-ever World Cup title over a favorite Brazilian side, who was composed of Marcelo, Renato Augusto, and Anderson, in a 3-0 win.
14 years and some change later, both youth powerhouses meet again in the same tournament, for the same silverware, and with the same pressure looming over them from entire nations who expect nothing but excellence from their respective teams.
But of course, to the Brazilians, there is a sense of added pressure given the fact that they’re on home soil.
“We’re familiar with Mexico’s quality,” Brazilian forward, Veron, said ahead of the final. “We know they are a great team. But we’re Brazil, and we have five stars on our chest. We intend to play our best match and get the result that makes history.”
As it stands, Mexico is the clear-cut underdog, having barely crept into the knockout stages and being composed of players with far less notoriety to its Brazilian counterpart, who boast three players with three goals or more in the tournament.
That said, Mexico pose as a balanced, reliable, and pragmatic team under coach Marco “Chima” Ruiz. Throughout the six games this tournament, El Tri have found the back of the net 14 times and have conceded a mere three goals (two of which came against Italy). With four goals and two assists in only 344 minutes, Los Angeles Galaxy’s Efrain Alvarez has proven to be the team’s most productive player going forward.
Asked who he would rather take between France or Brazil in the final, the Mexican American answered with the same confidence that has made him one of the most exciting players in the tournament.
“It doesn’t matter which of the two it is, we’ll beat them,” he said.
It’s 90 minutes for either team to make history, again. A win for Brazil will raise the number of U-17 stars to four, while Mexico can claim its third with another historic performance. Will Brazil’s high-flying attack crack Mexico’s solid defense? If Alvarez starts, will he rise to the occasion and guide Mexico to another U-17 title?
That has yet to be seen; the second final between two, routine winners awaits the first whistle.