Ecuador 1-2 Uruguay (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 5, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 11 February 2017)

The final game which took place on the last Hexagonal Matchday of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw hosts Ecuador face Uruguay in a battle for the title. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

hexagonalendddd

(Source: Wikipedia)

Ecuador 1-2 Uruguay

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 11 February 2017 (YouTube)

In this title-deciding encounter, Uruguay were out the traps early and with relative comfort ultimately went on to clinch the championship by an impressive five points. They were gifted the lead after a mere five minutes when Ecuador defender Luis Segovia suicidally passed the ball inside his own area to Joaquín Ardaiz who gratefully tucked it away. Twenty minutes later Ardaiz virtually sealed the competition for Uruguay when he received a long ball and clinically struck it home. Now requiring three goals, though Ecuador did get forward they never really looked like realistically pulling off the comeback; they did nevertheless halve the deficit in the 66th minute when Herlin Lino managed to knock a forward ball past the goalkeeper. Ultimately however, it was Uruguay’s day and tournament; though it was a topsy-turvy 25 days and even Uruguay gave observers reasons to doubt them, they came through and can deservedly be called the best Under-20 nation in South America.

Talent Spotting

ecuadorflag Ecuador

They were outsiders to win the title and any game plan they had went out the window as soon as Luis Segovia (No. 21, El Nacional) gifted Uruguay their opening goal within five minutes. Going two behind after 26 minutes all but ensured the destination of the trophy though, to their minor credit, Ecuador did at least try to threaten the opposition defence throughout the game.

Indeed, unsurprisingly top-scorer Bryan Cabezas (No. 10, Atalanta, Italy) could be a threat, particularly early on. In the 13th minute he managed to gain some space and get a shot away from the edge of the area, which the Uruguayan goalkeeper uncomfortably spilt. Ecuador have several quality attack-minded players and so some have been afforded more opportunities than others in this tournament but here Wilter Ayoví (No. 8, Independiente Del Valle) caught the eye, coming close to scoring twice. Indeed, in the 19th minute he swung in a free-kick with his right boot from the left near the byline which had to be blocked out at the near post. Then, more notably three minutes later, he did well to capitalise on an error then twist and turn his way past two players before firing a shot from inside the area that was deflected just over for a corner. Into the second half, Ecuador did manage to provide a glimmer of hope for their fans when in the 66th minute a long ball from right-back Kevin Minda (No. 4, L.D.U. Quito) was deftly touched by Herlin Lino (No. 9, Barcelona SC, Ecuador) through the legs of the onrushing goalkeeper to make it 2-1. However, despite this, they struggled to put Uruguay under much more pressure, with an 82nd-minute free-kick from substitute Joao Rojas (No. 17, Emelec) that went hopelessly over being the closest they came to another goal.

Alas, the scoreline remained the same and Uruguay were crowned champions. Nevertheless, Ecuadorians can come away with much pride that they not only hosted an often exciting tournament but that their team was often the most entertaining side on show, managing to finish a very credible second and will be going to South Korea in May.

uruguayflag Uruguay

Though Ecuador never entirely gave up, Uruguay had effectively killed off the game within the opening half-hour. Indeed, they showed strength in depth by dropping at least a couple of their most impressive players and it was one of the stand-ins who was to score both of their goals. Indeed, Joaquín Ardaiz (No. 7, Danubio) took advantage of a hopeless defensive error in the fifth minute, before shielding the ball from another defender and then sliding home from inside the area. His second came in the 26th minute when Nicolás De La Cruz (No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay), arguably the most consistent top performer in the tournament, dinked a ball over a defender which Ardaiz confidently finished off.

Otherwise, Uruguay had a couple of other minor chances in the first half but it was after Ecuador pulled a goal back in the second period that they really further tested the opposition goalkeeper. Indeed, in the 69th minute, perhaps the most naturally talented player in the competition, Rodrigo Amaral (No. 10, Nacional, Uruguay), came off the bench and two minutes later had an opportunity to win the golden boot outright. Alas, though he curled this centrally placed free-kick well with his left peg, it ultimately went slightly wide; thus, after the game he had to share the top-scorer’s trophy with three other players who also scored five goals: Ecuador’s Bryan Cabezas and Argentina’s Marcelo Torres and Lautaro Martínez. Five minutes after Amaral’s free-kick, another set-piece was well-struck from the middle of the park; this time it was De La Cruz over the ball and he did well to curl a right-footed effort which had to be parried out.

Nevertheless, though they didn’t build on their early lead, they didn’t really need to, with the likes of Agustín Rogel (No. 18, Nacional) at the back instead largely effectively frustrating and hassling opponents off the ball.

When the final whistle blew, the Uruguayan joy was palpable as they won their first South American Under-20 tournament since 1981 (their eighth overall) and kept up a very impressive recent youth record. For many fans, this will have gone some way to making up for the narrow defeat suffered in the decisive final game by a similarly outstanding side to Argentina on home soil two years ago in front of over 65,000 people. Now, this generation of players from this small over-achieving nation shall go with Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina to the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea in May with a spring in their collective step, no doubt believing that they can yet again upset the odds – and this time on a much grander scale.

The two other games played on the fifth and final Hexagonal Matchday were Argentina vs Venezuela and Colombia vs Brazil – talent-spotting articles have already been published for these two matches.  

Otherwise, to keep track with the careers of these and many other talented South Americans, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Colombia 0-0 Brazil (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 5, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 11 February 2017)

The second game which took place on the final Hexagonal Matchday of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw Colombia face Brazil, with the latter needing a win to progress to the World Cup. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

hexagonalendddd

(Source: Wikipedia)

Colombia 0-0 Brazil

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 11 February 2017 (YouTube)

Perhaps it was their fitness levels, perhaps it was their lack of teamwork and/or ability, but whatever it was, Brazil did not have enough of it and thus will not be going to the Under-20 World Cup. With just one point in four games, Colombia – who rested some notable players – appeared to be there for the taking, but Brazil were unable to find a way through and, despite some first-half attempts, seemed almost resigned to their fate from a relatively premature stage. Overall, the closest they came to a goal was a first-half header from Richarlison in space, which was well-blocked by Colombian goalkeeper Luis García. Their opponents may not have offered much going forward but they didn’t need to and thus Brazil will not be attending the tournament that they have won five times in the past.

Talent Spotting

colombia Colombia

With Juan ‘El Cucho’ Hernández (No. 10, América de Cali, on loan from Granada, Spain) and Ever Valencia (No. 13, Atlético Bucaramanga) starting on the bench, it was evident from the start that there was not likely to be many forward forays from the already eliminated side. Instead, it proved to be a rare moment for the defence to shine and frustrate as, with perhaps the exception of one or two chances, they rarely allowed Brazil a good sight of goal. Given that they had already beaten their opponents 1-0 in the first group stage, perhaps more people should have seen this result coming.

The handful of times that they knocked the ball vaguely in the direction of the opposition goal were largely the result of long range shots from the likes of substitute Hernández and a couple from Julián Quiñones (No. 7, Tigres, Mexico). Their best chance came in the 43rd minute when a decent quick-paced move ended with a nudge into the path of Jorge Obregón (No. 19, Unión Magdalena) just inside the area, though his poked effort was easy for the goalkeeper to stop.

That was all that they had to say for themselves. One can not help but feel that their campaign would have turned out quite differently had striker Damir Ceter (two goals in two games) not been injured early on in the tournament, as they undoubtedly have some talented supporting attackers in their squad.

brazilflag Brazil

They needed to win and, though with less intensity than Argentina against Venezuela, they did go for it in the first half, but ultimately came across as a tad toothless. These opportunities were the closest that they came to scoring:

In the 11th minute, Felipe Vizeu (No. 9, Flamengo) burst into the area along the left byline and shot from a tight angle, though this was blocked out by the goalkeeper. Five minutes later, left-back Guilherme Arana (No. 6, Corinthians) put in a wicked cross from his flank which begged for a touch but evaded those in the centre. Not long afterwards in the 21st minute, Richarlison (No. 18, Fluminense) passed the ball towards the dee where Lucas Paqueta (No. 10, Flamengo) struck a shot with intent, though it went at the goalkeeper. The 28th minute yielded Brazil’s best opportunity to score when Dodô (No. 2, Coritiba) crossed in from the right towards the back post where he found Richarlison in space, but his header was well-saved. Seven minutes later, Dodô put in another good ball from his flank and Richarlison again went to attack it but this time a defender narrowly beat him to the ball and headed out. Lastly, Brazil’s final attacking moment of actual note came as early as the 58th minute when, on the left and seemingly set to cross, Arana instead shot, catching the goalkeeper by surprise who had to punch out from virtually underneath his crossbar.

Alas, though it was a somewhat meek departure with a far-from-vintage crop of players, they did ultimately only miss out on qualification by a mere point and do nevertheless possess several individuals one expects to see more of in upcoming years. Whether or not they become regular fixtures of the senior side is another matter, but there has been plenty of evidence over the past 25 days to suggest that, on average, their players may enjoy more successful club careers than most of the rivals they faced.

The two other games played on the fifth and final Hexagonal Matchday were Argentina vs Venezuela and Ecuador vs Uruguay – talent-spotting articles have also been published for these two encounters. 

Otherwise, to keep track with the careers of these and many other talented South Americans, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Argentina 2-0 Venezuela (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 5, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 11 February 2017)

The first game which took place on the final Hexagonal Matchday of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw Argentina face Venezuela. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

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(Source: Wikipedia)

Argentina 2-0 Venezuela

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 11 February 2017 (YouTube)

Venezuela came into this final encounter knowing that a win could put them in with an outside shout of claiming the title, whereas avoiding a defeat by five goals would at least confirm their World Cup qualification. For Argentina, a five-goal hammering would ensure their progress, but a win by anything less would leave them at the mercy of subsequent events – and so it proved. Indeed, in a game in which Los Pibes dominated from the start, it nevertheless looked as if they may be outright frustrated by the best overall defence in the competition. That is, until Lautaro Martínez scored twice in quick succession at the end of the first half; his first came after he took a pass in his stride and struck home and his second was an opportunistic looping header from a long ball. Afterwards, with Venezuela shaken, Argentina’s objective seemed plausible. However, though after the break they enjoyed the majority of the attacks and forced some fine saves from opposition goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez, the clock gradually ran out on the white-and-blue boys. When the final whistle was blown, they looked as if they felt the seemingly inevitable would send them packing, yet just over two hours later, fear was turned to elation as Brazil failed to beat Colombia, gifting Argentina the fourth and final World Cup berth. By contrast, Venezuela, though perhaps not capping off an otherwise memorable tournament in the ideal manner, greeted the end of the match with unbridled joy as they will be travelling to the Under-20 World Cup for the first time since 2009.

Talent Spotting

argentinaflag Argentina

He appears to only score vitally crucial goals but his team-mates will long be grateful that he got another two here. In doing so, with a tournament total of five goals Lautaro Martínez (No. 9, Racing Club) helped elevate himself into a position where he can be justifiably proclaimed one of the top players of the past 25 days. The opener against Venezuela came after 43 minutes when he received a pass from the right from strike-partner Marcelo Torres (No. 21, Boca Juniors); with two good touches, Martínez took the ball into the area before firing low across goal into the back of the net. Barely a few minutes later, Martínez got his second as a long ball from Joaquín Pereyra (No. 18, Rosario Central) surprisingly went over the head of a defender; immediately behind him on the edge of the area, Martínez looped a header which caught goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez off-guard and went over him to make it 2-0. With these two goals, Argentina suddenly looked as if they could go on a rampage, but alas, they were to be thwarted, with the closest Martínez coming to getting a hat-trick actually occurring straight after his second, when he blazed a knock-back over. He did also have another chance much later on in the 79th-minute when he turned and struck from the edge of the area, but his shot also went well over.

Otherwise, though Los Pibes took to this game with an intent rarely seen in recent days, no other player really had a game worth salivating over, though some players did nevertheless try to make things happen. These were Argentina’s other notable forward forays:

In the eighth minute, Pereyra had a weak shot from over 25 yards out which went wide; more substantially in the 13th minute, following a hanging cross over to the right side of the area, Lucas Rodríguez (No. 7, Estudiantes de La Plata) stabbed an effort that clipped the outside of the post and went behind – though goalkeeper Fariñez had this covered. In the 28th minute, Rodríguez had another half-chance though this strike from distance went comfortably wide; a couple of minutes a later, a slightly better effort came from 30 yards on the inside-right from Federico Zaracho (No. 19, Racing Club), which bounced awkwardly in front of Fariñez who nevertheless blocked. A greater opportunity occurred shortly afterwards when Martínez returned a one-two to Rodríguez just inside the area, though just before the latter could hit the trigger, a defender crucially intervened for a corner. Then, just before Martínez opened the scoring as well as straight after the break, Pereyra got a couple more shots in, with the second a much better attempt, though both of these went wide of the post.

Otherwise, Argentina’s best chances to extend their lead in this half all occurred within a minute or so of each other. Indeed, in the 56th minute, Tomás Conechny (No. 20, San Lorenzo) received a dinked ball in space on the left edge of the area and fired a shot that was only marginally deflected over. From Conechny’s subsequent corner, fellow substitute Ezequiel Barco (No. 10, Independiente) connected with a strong header that was well-parried at close range; soon after, a shot was fired in low from the edge of the area that again required a fine save, with the rebound being narrowly diverted from the path of Torres. Subsequently, Argentina gradually had to accept that their fate would be in the hands of others, with a stoppage-time right-footed strike from Santiago Ascacibar (No. 5, Estudiantes de La Plata) that swerved wide some 30 yards out proving to be their very last throw of the dice.

They thus greeted the final whistle with apprehension, though after they sat through the following 0-0 draw between rivals Brazil and bottom-boys Colombia, their faces became pictures of joy and relief. Despite their inconsistent campaign, they have squeaked through in fourth and shall be off to South Korea in May for the World Cup, a tournament that they have won a record six times.

venezuelaflag Venezuela

Rafael Dudamel’s men came into the game simply needing to avoid a heavy loss to guarantee World Cup qualification and played accordingly. Indeed, perhaps it was partly due to Argentina’s greater urgency for goals, but Venezuela were on the back-foot for much of this game.

For the first 42 minutes, despite their lack of adventure, they did a good job of frustrating their opponents; Yangel Herrera (No. 8, Manchester City) put in a notable last-ditch challenge in the fourth minute and the defence collectively forced Argentina into long-range attempts and half-chances. However, they were rocked by two goals at the end of the first half and looked vulnerable to concede more afterwards.

Yet, though the defenders deserve plaudits for regaining their composure and not succumbing to an avalanche of goals, goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez (No. 1, Caracas FC) in particular is worthy of recognition for some crucial saves. Indeed, though he was perhaps unfortunately placed for the second goal due to anticipating his defender to head away, he otherwise looked alert throughout the game and his shot-stopping abilities were called into action in the 57th minute. Indeed, he first pulled off a close-range parry from Barco’s header and not long afterwards did well to see a shot from the edge of the area come through a cluster of players, which he blocked low.

From an attacking perspective, aside from one or two harmless efforts from Ronaldo Peña (No. 9, Las Palmas, Spain), Venezuela were not much of a threat. Their best and only real chance came from Yeferson Soteldo (No. 10, Huachipato, Chile) whose 53rd-minute free-kick clipped the top of the crossbar; otherwise, to a decreased degree, the diminutive dribbler showed some nice footwork and took some other set-pieces which came to nothing.

Nevertheless, as the second half wore on, it became increasingly clear that Venezuela were on their way to their first Under-20 World Cup since 2009 – elation thus greeted the final whistle on the pitch and back home. Eight years ago, Salomón Rondón was part of that impressive squad who progressed on home soil, yet though a handful of his team-mates have since gone on to earn senior caps, none could be said to have also become integral to the national side. Thus, though three individuals in this year’s rather outstanding crop have repeatedly stood out (Herrera, Soteldo and Fariñez) and several others have also caught the eye, one can only hope that this can be built on in upcoming years with greater success.

The two other games played on the fifth and final Hexagonal Matchday were Colombia vs Brazil and Ecuador vs Uruguay – talent-spotting articles have now also been published for these encounters. 

Otherwise, to keep track with the careers of these and many other talented South Americans, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Brazil 2-2 Argentina (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 4, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 8 February 2017)

The third and final game which took place on Hexagonal Matchday 4 of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw Brazil face Argentina. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

hexagonal8217

(Source: Wikipedia)

Brazil 2-2 Argentina

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 8 February 2017 (YouTube)

With less than ten seconds left of stoppage-time, Argentina equalised to keep their hopes of World Cup qualification alive, but this draw nevertheless leaves them with only an outside possibility of gaining the fourth and final spot for South Korea 2017. They went behind after 10 minutes when Richarlison controlled a long ball in the area and, at the second bite of the cherry, directed a shot into the back of the net. Argentina were on level terms in the 26th minute when a corner was knocked into the path of Brian Mansilla, who instinctively found the back of the net. In the second half, Brazil won a penalty which, after some delay, Felipe Vizeu converted in the 66th minute. However, with elimination seeming on the cards, Los Pibes slightly stepped up their game though still looked like they were doomed until the 95th minute when Tomás Conechny knocked in a cross that Lautaro Martínez nodded home. Thus, Brazil, with five points, will have to wait and hope that they can see off Colombia on Saturday before confirming their qualification, though this is nevertheless a superior position to be in than Argentina, who will have to beat Venezuela and, most likely, hope other results (such as a Colombian win/draw) go their way.

Talent Spotting

brazilflag Brazil

It was not really a game in which any individual talent repeatedly stood out, so what follows instead is a list of key opportunities, including the goals. Some players may not have had more than one moment of note, but avid watchers of this tournament will know that this is far from the first time that certain individuals have created a good chance or scored. What’s that cliché about how ‘you don’t notice him all match and then he goes and does something like that…’?

Brazil’s opening goal came in the 10th minute when a sublime pinpoint ball was played forward from the centre-circle by Maycon (No. 17, Corinthians) who found Richarlison (No. 18, Fluminense); at the second attempt whilst down on the turf, the latter was able to guide the ball low into the corner to make it 1-0 and gain his second goal of the tournament. Eight minutes later, Matheus Sávio (No. 20, Flamengo) curled in a free-kick from the left with his right that Léo Santos (No. 15, Corinthians) headed onto the crossbar; subsequently, another ball was put in from the right which Santos headed on and Lyanco (No. 4, São Paulo) knocked into the back of the net, but alas, the flag had been raised. In the 39th minute, Richarlison twist-and-turned on the left just outside the area before hitting a right-footed effort wide of the mark. Then, three minutes later, Richarlison returned a pass to Guilherme Arana (No. 6, Corinthians) who bombed into the area by the left byline before putting in a dangerous low cross, though nobody could connect with it.

Into the second half, left-back Arana – who has two goals in this tournament – came forward into the area again in the 56th minute, though his well-hit shot went just wide of the far post. However, despite not really putting their opponents under too much pressure, Brazil were granted an opportunity to regain their lead in the 66th minute; following a tug in the area, Felipe Vizeu (No. 9, Flamengo) stepped up to convert a penalty to make it 2-1 and gain his fourth goal of the competition.

Otherwise, Brazil didn’t create a great deal else and while they largely dealt with the relatively mild Argentine pressure, they ultimately fell short. Nevertheless, win on Saturday against Colombia – who may be bottom but did actually beat Brazil in the first stage – or at least match Argentina’s result and they will be through.

argentinaflag Argentina

As with Brazil, there certainly wasn’t anyone running the show for Argentina, though those involved with the goals were nevertheless some of their best players of the tournament. Thus, what follows are details on their best opportunities, including the two that they put away.

In the 16th minute, Juan Foyth (No. 13, Estudiantes de La Plata) hit a strike with his left boot from 25 yards, which the goalkeeper had to parry before gathering, though in truth it wasn’t too challenging. Nine minutes later, Brian Mansilla (No. 11, Racing Club) created a better opportunity when he got past a player on the right before poking in a ball with the outside of his left boot, which a Brazilian defender deflected just over his own bar. Then, from the subsequent corner taken by Lucas Rodríguez (No. 7, Estudiantes de La Plata), Cristian Romero (No. 2, Belgrano) headed it on and Mansilla stuck out his leg to knock the ball home to make it 1-1. In the 32nd minute, Tomás Belmonte (No. 17, Lanús) picked up a ball on the edge of the area before firing over on the turn and three minutes later from long range, Mansilla whacked an effort that went wide but caused a minor scare. However, a far more substantial chance came in the 43rd minute when Rodríguez raced up the right in space and crossed it for Mansilla; it seemed like a textbook breakaway goal was about to be scored but alas, his volley went marginally wide of the post.

Into the second half, Argentina really looked like they were heading out after going 2-1 down, creating hardly anything until the 72nd minute. Indeed, at this point, substitute Tomás Conechny (No. 20, San Lorenzo) received a chipped ball from fellow substitute Ezequiel Barco (No. 10, Independiente) though his shot from the left of the area was blocked for a corner, which Conechny himself crossed over everyone to the other side. 11 minutes later, Milton Valenzuela (No. 3, Newell’s Old Boys) looked like he was about to put in a cross from the left edge of the area though his ball, probably unintentionally, instead went just over, hitting the roof of the net. Then a couple of minutes later, the other substitute Ramón Mierez (No. 22, Tigre) was on the receiving end of two knock-ons from corners but couldn’t get a good connection on either.

However, in the 95th minute, not long after Conechny sliced a shot and all seemed lost, the same man was able to put in a fine left-footed cross from the left which found the head of Lautaro Martínez (No. 9, Racing Club) who headed home his third tournament goal to ensure his country fights to the last day.

However, even if they beat Venezuela, the odds, other matches and their goal difference are all very much stacked against them. If they make it to South Korea in May, they’ll need to either admonish a savage beating and/or hope at least one of the other games very much goes their way – frankly, whilst they can not be counted out, one does not fancy their chances.

The two other games played on Hexagonal Matchday 4 were Ecuador vs Colombia and Uruguay vs Venezuela – talent-spotting articles have also been published for these matches.

Otherwise, the fifth and final Matchday of the Hexagonal will be on 11 February 2017 and the games shall be Argentina vs Venezuela, Colombia vs Brazil and Ecuador vs Uruguay – expect to see one last bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com. 

To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Uruguay 0-3 Venezuela (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 4, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 8 February 2017)

The second game which took place on Hexagonal Matchday 4 of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw Uruguay face Venezuela. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

hexagonal8217

(Source: Wikipedia)

Uruguay 0-3 Venezuela

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 8 February 2017 (YouTube)

Despite being billed as Uruguay’s title-winning match, it ended up as a rout delivered by a very impressive Venezuela side, which now puts the latter in with an outside chance of nabbing the championship on Saturday. Indeed, they were well worth their victory as they edged proceedings from the off, even if Uruguay did end up having the two best chances of the first half – both of these came shortly before the interval, with one being a header against the crossbar. After the break in the 67th minute, Venezuela also rattled the woodwork with a header and, barely seconds afterwards, they took the lead courtesy of Josua Mejías’s low strike from an angle. Uruguay were still reeling from this four minutes later when Ronaldo Chacón was fouled in the area and Yeferson Soteldo converted the penalty for 2-0. Just five minutes later, roles were reversed as a crucial victory was wrapped up when Soteldo was fouled in the area and Chacón stepped up to make it 3-0 from the spot. Such was the delirium, even Antonio Romero receiving Venezuela’s fifth red card in eight games in the last minute could not sour the evening for the boys in burgundy.

Talent Spotting
uruguayflag Uruguay

Suffering their very first defeat of the competition and thus causing sudden, unanticipated doubt upon the ultimate destination of the tournament trophy, Uruguay had very little joy when going forward in this game. Indeed, they were continually thwarted by Venezuela’s well-organised defence, with their best opportunities coming one after the other towards the end of the opening half.

The first occurred in the 42nd minute when, from a free-kick on the inside-right, Rodrigo Amaral (No. 10, Nacional, Uruguay) surprised opponents by dinking the ball with his left into the area; this found Nicolás Schiappacasse (No. 9, Atlético Madrid) in space on the right yet he was smartly denied a goal by Wuilker Fariñez, who blocked his shot wide. From the resulting corner, Uruguay came even closer to breaking the deadlock as the cross of Nicolás De La Cruz (No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay) was headed hard against the crossbar by left-back Mathías Olivera (No. 5, Club Atlético Atenas).

Otherwise, De La Cruz had a long range shot easily saved and put in another testing cross that caused some problems, but this was very much an off-day for Uruguay. They will urgently need to compose themselves and regroup ahead of Saturday’s clash with Ecuador as defeat could see the hosts instead claim the trophy – even a draw would prove insufficient if Venezuela gain a final-day victory.

venezuelaflag Venezuela

With Manchester City-bound captain Yangel Herrera suspended along with two other regulars and three of the coaching staff including manager Rafael Dudamel, there were fears that Venezuela could implode. Instead, however, they produced a performance of sublime maturity as they were able to keep the heavy tournament favourites at bay before inflicting their first defeat upon them.

Two men who played a role in all three goals were Yeferson Soteldo (No. 10, Huachipato, Chile) and Ronaldo Chacón (No. 11, Caracas FC). Before they made their mark, they had been involved in some other notable attacks, particularly Soteldo. Indeed, in the 35th minute he did great on the right to take on a player before putting in a fine ball for Sergio Córdova (No. 23, Caracas FC), though the latter’s acrobatic scissor-kick went a couple of yards wide. Later, in the 55th minute, Soteldo did well over on the left where he ran into the area and cut the ball back from the byline but Chacón couldn’t quite finish it off, instead winning a corner.

12 minutes later, however, they made more telling involvements. Indeed, some 35 yards out on the right, Soteldo whipped in a fine free-kick that, from just inside the area, Chacón rattled against the crossbar with a header. Subsequently, the ball was then cleared before being knocked back into the path of Chacón on the inside-left some 35 yards out and he slid in Josua Mejías (No. 17, Carabobo FC) inside the area who, in turn, slipped the ball past the goalkeeper from an angle. Plucky Ronaldo Peña (No. 9, Las Palmas, Spain) may have celebrated as if it was his goal, but make no mistake, it was Mejías who gave Venezuela the lead. Just four minutes later, Córdova’s cross for Chacón in the middle of the area led to the latter being hauled down; thus, Soteldo stepped up to convert the penalty and double his country’s lead. Barely five minutes later, the roles were reversed as Soteldo dashed into the area only to be crudely brought down for a spot-kick which Chacón put away to complete the 3-0 demolition.

Otherwise, earlier Venezuela had a few minor chances to break the deadlock in the first half. In the 26th minute, the impressive right-back Ronald Hernández (No. 20, Zamora FC) did well on the right, taking on a defender and then shielding the ball from him to get a shot away from the right edge of the area, which the goalkeeper saved low. Four minutes later, Ronaldo Lucena (No. 16, Zamora FC) put in a good cross from the right which, in space, Peña got a head to, though this went comfortably wide. Lastly, three minutes later in the 33rd minute Lucena’s corner was headed goalwards by Williams Velásquez (No. 2, Estudiantes de Caracas) and hit Peña but though he was only four yards out, opponents swarmed and made it difficult for him to adjust his body to get a shot in.

Nevertheless, Mejías, Soteldo and Chacón were to be the goalscoring heroes and ensure that, barring a five-goal defeat at the hands of Argentina on Saturday, they have already qualified for the Under-20 World Cup. It is a tremendous achievement for this well-organised and talented crop of players – the first time since 2009 that Venezuela will have done so – and if they instead beat Argentina with the Ecuador-Uruguay game also going their way, they will turn even more heads by winning this competition for the first ever time. A nation can dream.

The two other games played on Hexagonal Matchday 4 were Ecuador vs Colombia and Brazil vs Argentina – talent-spotting articles have also been published for these matches. 

Otherwise, the fifth and final Matchday of the Hexagonal will be on 11 February 2017 and the games shall be Argentina vs Venezuela, Colombia vs Brazil and Ecuador vs Uruguay – expect to see one last bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com. 

To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Ecuador 3-0 Colombia (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 4, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 8 February 2017)

The first game which took place on Hexagonal Matchday 4 of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw hosts Ecuador face Colombia. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

hexagonal8217

(Source: Wikipedia)

Ecuador 3-0 Colombia

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 8 February 2017 (YouTube)

Colombia’s already slim World Cup qualification hopes were killed off as Ecuador greatly increased theirs following this comfortable victory. The hosts had little to fear from their unambitious opponents and swatted them aside with three second-half goals. The first of these came five minutes after the restart when Bryan Cabezas was played into the area on the left and did well to strike home low. The second goal occurred soon after Colombia had a shot saved in the 63rd minute; this time, a free-kick into the area was poorly dealt with by a defender and Jordy Caicedo was on hand to clinically double the lead. The third and final goal arrived with seven minutes to go when a fine through-ball on the left led to Cabezas roaming into the area and placing a shot past the goalkeeper. Ecuador now go into their final match on Saturday with Uruguay knowing that a win, coupled with the result of the Argentina-Venezuela game going their way, would see them win the tournament.

Talent Spotting

ecuadorflag Ecuador

Bryan Cabezas (No. 10, Atalanta, Italy) again led the Ecuadorian attack and was ultimately rewarded with two goals. Even before he had got onto the scoresheet, he had already caused a couple of problems for the opposition back-line, firstly in the 18th minute when he ran onto a through-ball on the left in the area and, though offside, poked a shot goalwards. 17 minutes later, he had a better opportunity from a similar position when Herlin Lino (No. 9, Barcelona SC, Ecuador) played an incisive ball through and he whistled a left-footed strike just wide of the far post. However, it was in the 50th minute that he was able to make the breakthrough, when he latched onto a pass from Jordan Sierra (No. 15, Delfin) in an identical position on the left inside the area and drilled a low left-footed strike past the goalkeeper to make it 1-0. Later on in the 83rd minute, he wrapped up the victory when Pervis Estupiñán (No. 6, Granada, Spain) – who was again a regular attacking threat – perfectly timed his pass to Cabezas in his trusty position on the left in the area, from where he slid home to make it 3-0. Following these goals, Cabezas now finds himself as the tournament’s joint top-scorer, along with Uruguay’s Rodrigo Amaral and Argentina’s Marcelo Torres, with five goals.

The second goal that divided Cabezas’ strikes was netted by Jordy Caicedo (No. 19, Universidad Católica, Ecuador) for his third of the tournament. Previously, he had a low shot on the turn easily saved in the 36th minute before coming much closer to scoring some four minutes later. Indeed, Wilter Ayoví (No. 8, Independiente Del Valle) – who earlier had a tame shot of his own saved – did well to take the ball past a defender and into the area on the right, from where he slid in a low cross that Cabezas went for but which instead found its way to Caicedo; however, his shot was deflected and bobbled wide for a corner. Caicedo’s goal instead came along in the 63rd minute, when a free-kick from the right was swung in and a dreadful error by a defender allowed the ball through to the Ecuador striker who pounced to swing home a low strike.

colombia Colombia

For the second consecutive game, there were very few positives to be said about Colombia, who have limply surrendered their chance to play at the U-20 World Cup, a tournament at which two years prior they reached the Round of 16.

Here, their star of the past few weeks, Juan ‘El Cucho’ Hernández (No. 10, América de Cali, on loan from Granada, Spain), had two minor moments that, admittedly, are barely worthy of a mention. The first occurred just before half time when, probably frustrated on the left edge of the area, he turned and chipped a right-footed effort that was very comfortable for the goalkeeper. The second came just two minutes after the restart when a throw found him on the right inside the area and he put the ball onto his left foot but hit his shot comfortably wide.

Otherwise, in the 62nd minute, just before Ecuador doubled their lead, Julián Quiñones (No. 7, Tigres, Mexico) picked up the ball and struck from about 30 yards; it was a good left-footed effort from a central position, though the goalkeeper got down to parry it out. Also, with virtually the last kick of the game, Quiñones put in a corner that Jorge Obregón (No. 19, Unión Magdalena) managed to head but it was easily blocked a second or so before the final whistle brought down the curtains on Colombia’s aspirations.

The two other games played on Hexagonal Matchday 4 were Uruguay vs Venezuela and Brazil vs Argentina – talent-spotting articles have also been published for these matches.

Otherwise, the fifth and final Matchday of the Hexagonal will be on 11 February 2017 and the games shall be Argentina vs Venezuela, Colombia vs Brazil and Ecuador vs Uruguay – expect to see one last bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com. 

To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Ecuador 3-0 Argentina (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 3, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 5 February 2017)

The final game which took place on Hexagonal Matchday 3 of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw hosts Ecuador face holders Argentina. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

group5217

(Source: Wikipedia)

Ecuador 3-0 Argentina

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 5 February 2017 (YouTube)

Argentina put in a woeful performance as they were comfortably trounced by hosts Ecuador, who got themselves back into the hunt for World Cup qualification. Indeed, Ecuador dominated the chances, with their first goal coming after 40 minutes, when Pervis Estupiñán struck home a penalty. They doubled their lead in the 58th minute when Bryan Cabezas slid the ball across the goalmouth where it was knocked in at the back post by Jordy Caicedo. The third and final goal came five minutes later when Cabezas dispossessed and bustled his way past a defender on the left in the area before squeezing home a finish.

Talent Spotting

ecuadorflag Ecuador

Pervis Estupiñán (No. 6, Granada, Spain) stepped up to convert his 40th-minute penalty down the middle with consummate ease – this was his third successful spot-kick in consecutive games and the left-back now has a remarkable four goals altogether in the tournament.

He also had a hand in the second goal after 58 minutes when he slid the ball on the left to  Bryan Cabezas (No. 10, Atalanta, Italy); he, in turn, knocked a low ball across the goalmouth where it was tapped in by Jordy Caicedo (No. 19, Universidad Católica, Ecuador) at the back post. For the third goal some five minutes later, right-back Kevin Minda (No. 4, L.D.U. Quito) played a long diagonal ball which Cabezas quickly mugged a defender of before knocking past the goalkeeper. Cabezas, in particular, impressed with his goal and assist and he also had Ecuador’s first two chances of the game. Indeed, in the third minute on the left in the area, he knocked a ball that bounced back to him so, instinctively, he whacked a strike from an angle, but it was always rising and went over. Then, four minutes later at the corner of the area on the left, he struck a shot that was hit with the pace of a cross but nevertheless forced the goalkeeper to first parry, then gather.

Otherwise, Ecuador had the lion’s share of the chances, including the following:

In the 15th minute, Herlin Lino (No. 9, Barcelona SC, Ecuador) whacked a strike from the right just outside of the area, but it went over. Four minutes later, Caicedo chased a long ball up the right into the area, though his shot from a slightly awkward angle was easily saved. The following minute from just outside of the left corner of the area, Jordan Sierra (No. 15, Delfin) hit a well-paced right-footed strike that was parried low at the near post. Seven minutes later, Sierra curled in a good cross from the right and Lino rose high, coming extremely close to the target but his header bounced inches wide of the post. Much later on in 52nd minute, Ecuador’s other chance of note occurred when Caicedo came bustling forward, played a one-two and then hit a right-footed dipping effort from 30 yards which went just a yard or two over.

argentinaflag Argentina

Los Pibes barely had an opportunity worth speaking of, with most of their attempts on the Ecuador goal coming from long distance. Indeed, in the 7th minute, right-back Nicolás Zalazar (No. 14, San Lorenzo) struck with the outside of his right boot from 30 yards, though this ultimately dipped rather harmlessly for the goalkeeper to catch. 11 minutes later, some 25-30 yards out from a free-kick on the left, one of Argentina’s more impressive players in the tournament, Tomás Conechny (No. 20, San Lorenzo), hit his effort just a yard or so over the bar. Then in the 31st minute, defender Cristian Romero (No. 2, Belgrano) intercepted a ball before shooting from 30 yards on the inside-right, but this went to the goalkeeper.

Otherwise, the only other half-chance of note came in the 65th minute when Lautaro Martínez (No. 9, Racing Club) took on two or three players from the right before making it into the area; he tried to strike an effort with his left boot but, owing to pressure from a defender, ended up hitting this shot wide of the mark.

The pickings really were that slim for Argentina and while their penultimate game against Brazil may not technically be a must-win game, with just three points from a possible nine, it will certainly be treated that way in order to keep their World Cup hopes alive.

The two other games played on Hexagonal Matchday 3 were Brazil vs Venezuela and Uruguay vs Colombia – talent-spotting articles have already been published for these matches.

Otherwise, Matchday 4 of the Hexagonal will be on 8 February 2017 and the games shall be Ecuador vs Colombia, Uruguay vs Venezuela and Brazil vs Argentina – expect to see another bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com. 

To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical