Brazil opens Women’s Under-17 World Cup with 1-0 win against Morocco

Hanan came from the Netherlands, Ahmed from France. They were in the sextet that had flown in from several European countries – Belgium was another country Hanan mentioned – and Morocco to support their daughters in the Women’s Under-17 World Cup. “We flew to Mumbai and then here,” Hanan said. One of the group showed a photo of the Jagannath Temple they had visited. “For luck,” he said.

The impact of their men’s team is so great that in the fourth part of the world that has no water, there are supporters for the country playing football in canary yellow shirts. The point was made by Brazilian coach Simone Gomez Jatoba when he explained why they failed to reach the semi-finals of this competition and failed to even qualify for one time.

It was no different at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday. Minutes after the afternoon’s game, a group of young girls began clapping and singing “Brazil, Brazil”. The Moroccans replied in kind, banging on the seats to make up for their lack of numbers and whooping as Brazil left before halftime. But neither parental support nor divine intervention was enough in Group A’s first game.

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Morocco’s number 9 Samya Masnaoui’s lob in the first minute had Brazilian goalkeeper Leilane a bow back to knock it over, but that was their best chance. Within a minute, Brazil answered through their number 9 Jhonson, top scorer with nine goals in the last South American championship they won at a gallop. Then she was tackled. Morocco had no answer when Lara found Jhonson, playing on the last defender’s shoulder, with a neat forward pass. An easy volley made it 1-0.

Given their dominance – after 20 minutes Brazil had given 120 passes to Morocco’s 30 and after 73 they had 16 shots, four times as many as their opponents with five on target – coach Jatoba worried that the festive gathering in the technical area was only took place once. That was also because, despite Brazil having 68% possession, goalkeeper Louisa Derbali denied Jhonson a one-on-one situation and made at least three good saves in the second half. It was her heroism in the tiebreak against Ghana, when Derbali saved two shots, that brought Morocco here after clearing a two-goal deficit in the double-header.

“Their goalkeeper played a great game,” Jhonson said in the mixed zone. “But we could have done better.” Jatoba agreed, saying: “We had a lot of possession and should have done more in attack.” But the coach was happy that they could start with a win and that the players coped well with the “very hot and wet (humid) conditions.”

Playing their first finals, Morocco better protected their goal after the break. But their efforts to feed Said Hajar, who had replaced skipper Yasmine Zouhir as the sole striker, were akin to six proud parents cheering in a crowd that officially had 4,243 in the stands.

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