Brazilian coach made the same mistake twice in a row. Against Germany he started off with three midfielders and the first half did not belong to him. Only after a rectification at the centre after the half-time coupled with a smart substitution he could reclaim the match. But despite knowing very well that his mid-field is wobbly, he featured three mid-fielders in his semi-final start-list. And in doing so he handed over the key to the English who could unlatch the bolt – the Brazilian defence is strong nonetheless- almost at will. Plucky Liverpool striker Rhian Brewster capitalized on his return-to-form momentum to carve out his second hat-trick on the trot and a decisive English win.
They now will face Spain who beat Mali 3-1 in the other semis. Mali will clash with Brazil for a third place play-off. Both of these matches are slotted on October 28 at the Salt Lake stadium – last match being the final.
England started the day as they did with all other teams – with a huff and a puff. Brazil did match them move for move. For the first ten minutes the exchanges were furious, almost equal, probably a slight upper-hand even and it looked Brazil had studied their opponents and were getting them back at their own play. England came close when Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi’s supply to Manchester City’s Phil Foden – who proved every bit of Pep Guardiola’s ‘on another level’ assessment throughout the match, didn’t bear fruit. This very Hudson-Odoi was instrumental in creating England’s first. His tussle up and down the flank with Brazilian right-back Wesley was exhilarating. On the 10th minute he cut inside his line to pick up an eager Brewster who was too happy to oblige. It was not a one shot goal, though. Gabriel Brazao, the Brazilian Goalkeeper extended his foot to interrupt Brewster’s thumping trajectory. But the Livepool lad caught the rebound to jab it in.
Brazil who had twice rehearsed their comebacks in this edition of the age-category competition – first against Spain in the group-stages and then with Germany in the quarters – winning both with a 2-1 margin pressed for an equalizer. Wesley combined with their quarter-final striker-hero, Paulihno, on the right and post a dexterous 1-2, 1-2, the Paulinho strike was fended off by Curtis Anderson, the Brit Goalkeeper, into the melee. Joel Latibaudier’s, the English central defender and captain’s hesitance gifted the opportunity to Wesley to restore the parity in the 21st minute. Now Brazil showed some urgency in trying to take the lead. Alan and Marcos Antonio began to flower at the centre to repeatedly outfox Tottenham midfielder Hotspur’s Tashan Oakley-Boothe and Chelsea’s George McEachran, with Brenner unable to convert a long straight ball. But come the 35th minute the collective Brazilian effort seemed to peter out.
Foden’s bull-dozing runs began to weigh heavily on their sluggish play. He slid it through to Steven Sessegnon who cut back from the right goal-line but to meet with Brazão’s obstruction. It again fell upon Brewster to steady the whimpering ball between his legs, administer a half-turn and coolly net in his second in the 39th minute, to become the highest scorer of the tournament with six strikes against his name.
After the halftime the action picked up near the 53rd minute – Hudson-Odoi’s cross to Brewster and Weverson’s similar assist to Lincoln – both down the right were headed wide.
Carlos Amadeu, the Brazilian coach took out the forward, Brenner and replaced him with Yuri Alberto. Yuri did have two good run-ins but this time round Amadeu’s sub unlike Germany’s game couldn’t fetch the desired result.
This Brazilian team who have not scored more than two goals in all their prior matches leading to the semis except for the decidedly weak Honduras team – where they net in three – were effectively now playing for the penalties as the best case scenario. In the lads game there are not extratime. A draw in the fulltime takes them straight to shot-outs.
Steve Cooper, the smart English coach perhaps cognizant of such marshalled his troops efficiently. He had instructed his boys not to let go of the control – not only to let the Brazilian’s not have any possession but also to mount an attack with degree of certainty. Though the Brazilians had thrown their arms in the air, a counter-attack strike could not be taken for granted. With the advent of the 77th minute England sealed the deal. Foden continued his golden run to see him invade the box on inside-right, thereafter supply to an open Emile Smith Rowe who dutifully mailed in the cross to aid Brewster’s hat-trick. England could have had a fourth if not for a miss from Fodden. Paulinho the only big hope in a day where Alan, Lincoln failed to fire was shadowed closely by Latibeaudiere and co.
It was simply a case of England being allowed to perpetrate their jam by a stubborn Brazil not willing to accept their weakness or rectify their mistakes. This game perhaps should go down to Brewster-Foden-Hudson-Odoi prowess as much as it will go down to Amadeu’s folly.