Make no mistake, Flying Eagles are contenders

Flying Eagles2There are playing strips in sport that strike fear – even awe – into opposition sides. The All Blacks’ famous jersey. The green and gold of the Australian cricket side. And the very simple yellow Brazilian football shirt.

The Brazilian style of football is called Joga Bonito. It means playing the game without inhibition, attacking from all quarters with breath-taking speed and creating pure joy on the grass.

Can you imagine the tens of millions of Brazilian boys who grow up dreaming of wearing that yellow shirt just once? Playing football on the beaches of Rio and back streets of Brasilia until it’s too dark to see?

That gives you an idea of the talent that exists on the Brazilian under-20 roster; those who have risen above millions of others to earn the right to represent their football-obsessed nation.

But the Brazilians were just one half of the equation in their 4-2 win over Nigeria in New Plymouth on Monday.

The impressive Africans paid no heed to their South American foes, matching them for large periods with no little panache of their own. Both of their goals were eye-catching in their construction and execution. Make no mistake; Nigeria are contenders.

It was a brilliant game. A brilliant, brilliant game. It was also an advertisement for this tournament that no marketing budget could buy.

22 exceptionally talented young boys who have probably kicked a ball since they were old enough to walk thrown together on a patch of grass and basically told to go for it.

Two teams attacking one another using every trick available to them and thrilling the crowd with their freshness and spontaneity.

Brazil and Nigeria seem certain to emerge from Group E, and anyone who faces them in the knockout rounds will need full focus (and some luck) to repel them.

Meantime, in Christchurch, Fiji endured an unhappy World Cup debut, shipping eight goals against a typically clinical German side.

You’d imagine the Germans could put out an under-10 side that would rarely lose the ball and – if needed – score all their penalties too.

Fiji were simply no match for the next wave of stars to emerge from the land of the World Cup holders.
The two late games were also goal-laden, with an incredible 28 scored on a wonderful third day of competition.

We’ve seen all 24 teams now, so we can start to make some basic predictions about who might be around when the silverware is handed out. They’d only really be guesses though, because the first twelve games of this soccer showpiece have shown there are any number of contenders here.

It may well come down to a moment or two of magic – a flash of Joga Bonito – to decide who flies home with the trophy in their grasp in three weeks’ time.

• Culled from

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