The opening day of the 2017 edition of the prestigious U-20 South American Youth Championship saw Group A get under way, with Colombia taking on Paraguay and hosts Ecuador facing Brazil. Below are video highlights, brief summaries of each game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting…
Colombia 1-1 Paraguay
CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group A, 18 January 2017 (YouTube).
Colombia largely dominated the game, more frequently getting into advanced positions and confidently playing the ball around. In each half, they both struck the post as well as squandered a one-on-one chance. However, a surprise was briefly on the cards when Sebastián Ferreira controlled a diagonal ball from Blás Riveros and clinically struck home in the 81st minute. Alas, it wasn’t to be for the Paraguayans, as with barely a minute of regulation time left, a corner somewhat fortuitously fell in the direction of substitute Damir Ceter, who hooked home the equaliser.
Often throughout the game, Colombia displayed more attacking intent, with their forward players appearing to have a better mutual understanding than those of their counterparts. Particularly impressive was Juan Ramírez (No. 21, Atlético Nacional), who showed some trickery to gain himself some space, as well as often seeking out – and finding – his team-mates with a range of balls. Two passes of note were aimed towards close colleague, No. 10, Juan ‘El Cucho’ Hernández. The first was a 30th-minute cross from a right-sided free-kick that reached Hernández in space at the back post area, though his header tamely went to the goalkeeper; the second was an exquisite 58th-minute long ball from some 45-50 yards out that Hernández stretched to latch onto at the byline, but he could not find anyone with his subsequent low cross. Nevertheless, ‘El Cucho’ was another stand-out attacker who those in-the-know are already aware of. Indeed, this 17-year-old netted an astonishing 20 goals in 33 Colombian second division games last season and has recently been snapped up by Granada who, in turn, have loaned him back to América de Cali in his homeland. Like Ramírez, he linked up well and put in some decent crosses; perhaps his most creative moment came in the 31st minute when he did a fine turn before running up the left to play in a fellow team-mate, who unfortunately mis-controlled. This compatriot, Julián Quiñones (No. 7, Tigres, Mexico), the third of the attackers playing behind the striker, by no means had a bad game but will surely bring more to upcoming encounters.
These three men were often trying to feed in Envigado striker, No. 11 Michael Nike Gómez, a man whose name ensures the minions of Hades that lurk in football marketing and advertising will be greasing their palms whilst begging their master to facilitate his rise in the global game. He sometimes came deep but was more frequently the beneficiary of forward passes, such as one in the 21st minute, which he received in the area but, from a one-on-one position, struck too close to the goalkeeper; the rebound was subsequently deflected wide. The man who played him in, holding midfielder Kevin Balanta (No. 8, Deportivo Cali), had been picked out by some to shine pre-game and he may be worth keeping an eye on in future fixtures. Further back, particularly in the first half, left-back Anderson Arroyo (No. 5, Fortaleza) was an eye-catching presence. Just 17 years old, he reportedly went on trial at Liverpool in July 2016 and here could regularly be seen roaming up his flank and looking to make things happen. Though ultimately he was offside, he almost had the ball in the net after 9 minutes when he bustled up the left and bypassed a defender into the area; his pass into the centre then ricocheted back towards him and he poked a strike against the near post. Perhaps Paraguay made a concerted effort to nullify him after the break as the second half saw slightly more of his colleague on the other side, right-back Leyser Chaverra (No. 15, Universitario Popayán). It was he who crossed in the corner for the late equaliser. Damir Ceter (No. 9, Santa Fe) was the man who nudged in the late goal and he has an impressive goalscoring record at club level, netting 14 times in 25 games last season in the Colombian second-flight for Deportes Quindío. With these statistics, many would have backed him in the 74th minute to convert a clear one-on-one chance, but alas he was denied. Lastly, the man whose deflected ball from his own half was responsible for this opportunity, Eduard Atuesta (No. 20, Independiente Medellín), also picked up a loose ball mere seconds later before firing from 25 yards low against the post.
Regarding Paraguay, there was far less attacking fluidity and intent on display and while some may feel they deserve a lot of credit defensively, as noted, they were caught out by two clear one-on-one opportunities. Thus, if anyone from the rearguard deserves any praise for withstanding Colombian pressure until very late on, it must be goalkeeper Marino Arzamendia (No. 22, Olimpia). Otherwise, La Albirroja‘s attacks came more from set-pieces and, especially, long balls pumped upfield to be either chased or to exploit gaps in the defence. Cristhian Paredes (No. 6, Club América, Mexico), who with a jinking run on the right in the 16th minute showed a glimpse as to why a top Liga MX side has recently snapped him up, was responsible for one such ball. However, his recipient in the 79th minute, Jesús Medina (No. 11, Libertad), struggled to really take the ball in his stride and quickly lost possession. Nevertheless, Medina, having quietly impressed at the last tournament as a 17-year-old, could well prove to be one his country’s key players this time. He often took on set-piece duties and after 41 minutes lofted in a sublime ball from near the halfway line that found its target but was headed over. However, as we know, one long ball did pay off: Left-back Blás Riveros (No. 4, Basel, Switzerland) chipped a fine diagonal ball into the area; the Colombian defence did seem to stand off striker Sebastián Ferreira (No. 19, Olimpia) a tad, but that should take nothing away from his composed low strike home. Although he went off seemingly with a knock not long afterwards, perhaps we will see more of him as well as more varied attack play from his compatriots in the upcoming Paraguay matches.
Ecuador 0-1 Brazil
CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group A, 18 January 2017 (YouTube)
In a capacity ground full of optimistic locals, though Brazil had the edge for the most part, the strong and combative hosts of Ecuador never gave up their search for a goal in this rather heated fixture. In the first half both sides missed glaring opportunities: Brazil’s came after 16 minutes when Felipe Vizeu scuffed a cut-back over the gaping goal-frame; this, in turn, was followed by the gilt-edged chance in the 33rd minute afforded to Ecuador’s Bryan Cabezas who, one-on-one barely six yards out, mis-hit a shot wide. Less than 25 seconds after the restart, tensions boiled over and would continue to be at a high temperature, as Ecuador’s William Vargas was given his second yellow for a foul on the edge of the area. The hosts acrobatically escaped going behind soon after but could do nothing about Vizeu’s well-executed finish from a Richarlison cross in the 52nd minute. Although Brazil saw more of the ball from then on and could well have doubled their lead, Ecuador were always in the match and, on home soil, should prove strong opposition for any of their Group A opponents.
As an attacking unit, the hosts Ecuador were rather robust and were not shy about taking the game to their opponents, often tenaciously forcing their way into advanced areas. Possibly their most conspicuous performer in this regard was attacking midfielder Bryan Cabezas (No. 10, Atalanta, Italy). More than once, he outpaced defenders on the flanks before knocking in balls. That said, he was responsible for an embarrassing miss in the 33rd minute when he was suddenly – and fortuitously – presented with a one-on-one chance on the edge of the six-yard-box. Yet, possibly due to a lack of composure or, quite possibly, bobbles on the pitch, he sliced it badly wide. Subsequently, he wasn’t really allowed much time to get his head straight as in the 55th minute, he clashed heads when vying for a lofted ball; when he was asked to come off, presumably due to a potential concussion, he was visibly angry, tearing up and kicking the nearest bottle. He did, however, return to the pitch before being substituted in the 78th minute. The man who put in the cross that led to this incident, as well as knocked in the initial ball from the left for Cabezas’ big chance, was the hosts’ other main threat, Joao Rojas (No. 17, Emelec). He too often sought to beat his man and also looked for Cabezas from set-pieces, with perhaps the most successful one, a free-kick in the 14th minute, finding his man in some space in the area; yet, perhaps in a portent of things to come, the Atalanta man fluffed his lines. Expect to see more of Rojas in future games and he also showed here that he isn’t afraid to shoot, with a 35th-minute effort from outside the area curling, admittedly comfortably, into the goalkeeper’s gloves.
Briefly, two other Ecuador moments of note: Luis Segovia (No. 21, El Nacional) overhead-kicking a deflected Brazil free-kick off the line just after his side had been reduced to ten men. Secondly, the 72nd-minute surprise half-volley of Ajax-linked substitute Jordan Sierra (No. 15, Delfin) from at least 25 yards out that caught most by surprise, though ultimately dipped 2-3 yards wide.
Though they sometimes were put on the back-foot, Brazil’s defence was often well-organised, with most of the midfielders regularly seen doubling up and standing in close proximity to the back-line. At the other end, Douglas Luiz (No. 8, Vasco da Gama) was occasionally seen skipping about with the ball and often stood over it, due to his role as one of the set-piece takers. It was his free-kick that led to Segovia’s goal-line acrobatics and he also wasn’t far off scoring directly from one when, in the 77th minute, he curled a right-footed effort around the wall, though this was parried wide. Arguably like his chance in the 16th minute, striker Felipe Vizeu (No. 9, Flamengo) was also undoubtedly hard to miss. He at least made amends for this with a very well taken goal in the 52nd minute. Richarlison (No. 18, Fluminense), who caused problems and had a shot from range, was the man responsible for the key pass in both of these moves; the goal itself came from a particularly deft first-time low cross following a soaring long ball from Lyanco (No. 4, São Paulo). As for the glaring miss, Vizeu’s club colleague, midfielder Lucas Paqueta (No. 10, Flamengo), was the one who got the move rolling, playing a sublime, cutting ball from the halfway line towards Richarlison. He often exhibited a certain elegance and poise on the ball and nearly set up a goal at the death when he raced upfield on a counter, before sliding to energetic substitute Giovanny (No. 21, Atlético Paranaense), who struck too close to the goalkeeper.
Lastly, midfielder David Neres (No. 11, São Paulo) often looked like he could cause trouble from the right; he won a fair few free-kicks, some of which were taken by Caio Henrique (No. 7, Atlético Madrid), another potential threat Brazil have at their disposal.
To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter. The next games will be Uruguay vs Venezuela and Argentina vs Peru from Group B – expect to see another bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com.