Abu Dhabi: Valmir Berisha, nicknamed the ‘Young Zlatan Ibrahimovic’ after the Paris Saint-Germain striker, inspired Sweden to third place at the Fifa Under-17 World Cup on Friday after a 4-1 thrashing of Argentina at Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium.
It marked a highly encouraging debut for the Swedes, who only lost to both finalists Mexico and Nigeria in the competition, with Berisha topping the scorers’ charts ahead of the final with seven goals.
The Swedes opened the scoring in the seventh when Mirza Halvadzic kept the ball alive at the edge of the area before Carlos Strandberg, making his first start in the UAE, chipped a clever ball over the top for the predatory Berisha to score his fifth of the tournament.
The South Americans had little to offer as the half wore on, and the Swedes were in the mood to grab a place on the podium. Gustav Engvall did well to win the ball at the edge of the Argentina box and cross low from the right, where Strandberg turned from provider to scorer with a perfect side-volley finish. They kept up the tempo too, and four minutes later it was 3-0. Berisha was on the spot again after Engvall dribbled 40 yards and hit the ball off the top of the upright. Like a true predator, the prolific No. 9 finished off from near the penalty spot.
Lucio Compagnucci pulled one back for the Argentines in the 44th minute to end the first half trailing 1-3.
And that was amazing because, according to Fifa statistics, Argentina had 75 per cent of possession in the first half against 25 per cent for Sweden.
Berisha started the second half from where he left the first and completed his hat-trick in the 57th minute, but then limped off to be replaced by his colleague Anton Saletros.
The Argentines mounted attack after attack, but that gave their opponents space to build fast counter-attacking moves which did not yield any goals because of lack of concentration on the Scandinavians’ part.