FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017: Germany returned to efficient best against Colombia to banish ghosts of Iran loss

It was over in 49 minutes. As John Yeboah slammed the ball home from close range, the German bench was overcome with joy. The squad knew that Germany was on its way to the quarter-final of the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup. Colombia was soundly beaten.

Before the match, Colombian coach Orlando Restrepo had suggested that his team had an advantage over its round of 16 opponent on account of familiarity with the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. But on another hot day in New Delhi, his players seemed awestruck by the occasion. The result was an unqualified thrashing.

Changes to the starting line-ups turned out to be crucial. There were two alterations on both sides. For Germany, John Yeboah and Sahverdi Cetin came in while Colombia brought left-back Robert Mejia and Yadir Meneses back. It was an interesting choice by Restrepo as the team’s formation shifted to 4-2-3-1. In the previous game against the US, which had seen the South Americans register an impressive win, Colombia had started with a 3-4-1-2 setup.

But before the tactical change could have a say, Colombia’s goalkeeper did. Kevin Mier’s performances had not been dodgy until this game but he had an evening to forget. A neatly worked move by skipper Jann-Fiete Arp and Yeboah saw the former ending up as the beneficiary of a gaffe. Mier, under no pressure whatsoever, failed to collect a loose ball after Arp had laid a heavy touch on it. Just when it seemed all was fine, the striker put a simple finish into an empty net.

There were more mix-ups and more mishaps. Colombia lived dangerously, scraping by. Coach Restrepo later admitted that his boys may have been nervous. They were hurried in their passing, lacking coherence in their moves. It was as if they were too aware of the occasion.

The stadium was sparsely filled but Germany did not seem to care much for the surroundings. The Germans were assured and confident, to the point that the familiar stereotype raised its uncertain face again. Efficient Germany, yet again!

But much of Colombia’s frustration arose from the fine defensive work accomplished by Cetin and Alexander Nitzl who screened the backline expertly. The former’s contribution, though, did not stop there. Yann Biseck headed in the second goal from Cetin’s corner, a powerful header after the defender rose above his marker. With the strike coming minutes before half-time, Colombia were deflated.

Yet, there was another element to the match which bears discussion. The Colombians’ physical superiority was there for everyone to see. The first half saw repeated interruptions as German players came worse off in duels. One of them, Yannik Keitel, had to be substituted as early as in the 12th minute. Colombia sought to catch Germany with long, aerial balls, hoping that its physical advantage will have a say.

However, quite often, the passes went astray. Also, Germany had the benefit of Arp’s comfort in the air. More importantly, Wueck’s boys had something which the Colombians could not offer – pace. Time and again, German players ran past their opponents with ease. The sudden burst of acceleration left Colombia reeling.

There could have been more goals. Wueck identified this as an area his team will need to work on, after the match. “It sounds crazy but we have to learn to make the best of our chances. We have four goals but we should have scored six-seven times today.” It could easily have been so. But the emphatic overtone to the 4-0 scoreline will not be missed.

Particularly when one recalls the thrashing Germany received at the hands of Iran earlier in this World Cup. Coach Wueck called it a “Black Tuesday”. But in less than a week, Germany has stepped up. Recovered from the battering it suffered, to dish out one of its own.

With four goals and three assists, skipper Arp is leading the charge. It is not that he does one thing well; rather, the Hamburg forward is good at many. His aerial presence is worth noting, he can attack with pace and guile and when presented with a chance, his composure is exemplary. Arp is slowly turning out to be one of the stars of this tournament. One for the future, certainly.

Before Monday’s match, the German coach Wueck had admitted that his country’s age sides are trained to feed the senior side. There’s less pressure on winning the title, he said. But if the Germans continue the way they played against Colombia, the pressure might just rise.

Up next is a quarter-final in Kolkata. The winner of the match between Brazil and Honduras will meet Germany. On current form, one would give the Germans more than a fighting chance of making it further in this tournament. Black Tuesday is a thing of the past. Germany’s memories will now be dominated by Marvellous Monday.

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