The battle between strikers in numerous European leagues has become the talk of the town in recent times. Be it the Sergio Aguero-Romelu Lukaku-Harry Kane showdown in the Premier League or the classic Cristiano Ronaldo-Lionel Messi-Antoine Griezmann rivalry in the La Liga. Often, it is these strikers who set the tone of the tournament and single-handedly decide the outcome of matches.
At the FIFA U-17 World Cup Jann Fiete-Arp, Germany intelligent 'No 9' and Brazil's in-demand attacking duo of Lincoln and Brenner will experience such a rivalry in the tournament when the two footballing giants face off in what is expected to be a humdinger of a quarter-final clash in the football-friendly city of Kolkata.
The lack of strikers in the German senior national team has forced Joachim Loew to experiment with false nines. The concept of false nines has been successful with the wealth of talent Germany boast in attacking midfielders. RB Leipzig's Timo Werner and Hoffenheim's Wagner are the two strikers Loew can rely on at times but they do not possess the fox-in-the-box trait of the retired Miroslav Klose or even Mario Gomez.
"The German team played with the 'false nine' concept which won us the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. We have, for example, Mario Gotze," the German U-17 media manager Ronny Zimmerman said.
One player who has the potential to be a genuine striker for Germany in the coming years is Fiete Arp. The Hamburg forward has scored four goals in the tournament so far and has demonstrated a style of play that every manager in the world would be proud of.
"Maybe in four or five years, he (Fiete-Arp) can directly enter the main team. He is just perfect in front of the goal," said Zimmerman. However, Germany are one such side, which even at the senior level, love to keep the ball and start the attack from the defence. "For Fiete-Arp to become more clinical, the whole team has to put in a lot of efforts. We are Die Mannschaft, you see. We always play team football and individual success is secondary," he said.
Both Germany and Brazil are blessed with excellent attacking talents. Despite Vinicius Jr missing out of the youth tournament in India, his teammates Lincoln and Brenner have taken the job of terrorising defences and scoring goals in almost every game. Lincoln and Brenner are just one goal behind Fiete-Arp, scoring three goals each in the competition so far.
“Brazil have an excellent team and they also have individual players who are very fast. They are very compact. But the Germans, too, are very fast. Some of them are already training with or playing for the first team at their clubs. In one or two years, one or two of them will play in the Bundesliga. An important step in their development is playing a World Cup,” explained Germany coach Christian Wuck.
"I hope that my strikers are better than the Brazilians. We know the team of Brazil. Not only do they have excellent team players but also individual players. We know that they are very strong and fast but the Germans are not far behind. We scored lots of goals in the European U-17 Championships, even here we had many chances," said Wuck
What's more astonishing is the understanding the players share on the pitch. In the lung-opener against an equally-strong Spain side, Brazil played attacking football of the purest form to register a comeback win. Lincoln, one of the goalscorers, was undoubtedly the star man of the game.
In a tricky clash against the Korea DPR, it was Lincoln yet again who stole the headlines and guided his side to a comfortable 2-0 win. He scored his third of the tournament against Niger and that was enough for the world to know that Brazil have a gem of a striker in their team.
The case with Fiete-Arp is no different. The 17-year-old forward has been on the scoresheet against Costa Rica, Guinea and Colombia. One of the most deadliest strikers out there, his Harry Kane-like overall involvement in the team's build-up to a goal puts him slightly ahead of the Brazilian duo. "We try to get everyone involved in the attack, which is one of the reasons why he (Fiete-Arp) is playing well," Zimmerman said.
Germany, as a team, have created tons of chances but the finishing has been a concern, while the Carlos Amadeu-led Brazil have scored nine times, same as the Germans, but have conceded just one in comparison to Germany's six.
“We have created some 80-90 chances but got only a handful of goals (nine in four games). We need to show quality on the pitch and have worked on that. In a World Cup, you need to get the best out of the players on the pitch. We didn’t do that against Iran but made changes to our defence and did well after that,” Zimmerman added.
"Brazil against Germany is a world classic across all ages. This is because both teams try to play attacking football and not sit back. Mostly you have great games when you see Brazil against Germany,” said Amadeu.
One thing is certain that in this all-out-attack battle between two footballing superpowers, the striker who makes the most of his chances will carry his team to the semi-finals. The Vivekananda Yuba Bharti Krirangan is all set to watch the attacking superstars of tomorrow. Over to you, Feite-Arp, Lincoln and Brenner.
Updated Date: Oct 22, 2017 15:17:00 IST