The second day of the 2017 edition of the prestigious U-20 South American Youth Championship saw Group B get under way, with Uruguay taking on Venezuela and holders Argentina facing Peru. Below are video highlights, brief summaries of each game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting…
Uruguay 0-0 Venezuela
CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group B, 19 January 2017 (YouTube)
Though it ended goalless, this Group B encounter was not without incident. Despite the talent in their ranks, Uruguay struggled to combine effectively in the first half and Venezuela gave them more than a few frights, persistently matching them across the field. Both sides had come close to opening the deadlock but in the 60th minute, Uruguay were presented with a golden opportunity to do so. However, captain Nicolás De La Cruz was left embarrassed as his Panenka-esque penalty was coolly saved by an upright Wuilker Fariñez. Despite going down to ten men, Venezuela stayed in the game and actually came closest to getting the winner, with Yangel Herrera’s 81st-minute effort saved by an overhead-kick clearance on the goal-line by Rodrigo Bentancur. Alas, it remained all square in Ibarra.
To many, the skipper Nicolás De La Cruz (No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay) acted a bit too big for his youthful boots when his audacious chipped penalty went awry. Nevertheless, he was his side’s most notable attacker, often looking to play in team-mates, taking over set-piece duties and not being afraid to shoot, as evidenced by his fierce 25-yard strike in the first half that drew an instinctive parry from Fariñez. With an illustrious brother, Carlos Sánchez, who has earned caps for La Celeste, young Nicolás may just possess the nature to help him make his senior bow; after a setback like this, one hopes he’ll also receive the right nurture.
The striker he was often looking to play in was Nicolás Schiappacasse (No. 9, Atlético Madrid). The ex-River Plate (Montevideo parish) looked to get involved with some decent runs and also tried to slide through his team-mates, yet he rarely got a clear sight of goal. Indeed, so slim were the pickings that the nearest he came was from a 25-yard left-footed effort entirely of his own making in the 43rd minute, which rebounded hard off the base of the post. He was substituted with just over 15 minutes left, though given his move to Spain last year, much is expected of him.
Another man with a growing reputation is No. 20 Rodrigo Bentancur, who has already played over 50 times for Boca Juniors. Here, he had a mixed time in midfield as he and his colleagues were not always successful in suppressing the Venezuelan bursts upfield. Nevertheless, Bentancur was responsible for ensuring Uruguay came away with at least one point when, in the 81st minute, he cleared an effort off the goal-line with a rather acrobatic overhead kick.
Otherwise, Uruguay seemed to lack the organisation and collective intent they possessed two years ago when they came close to winning on home soil. One man from that team, roaming midfielder Rodrigo Amaral (No. 10, Nacional, Uruguay), now 19, was somewhat surprisingly a substitute here. His presence after the break did not dramatically change things though he did show some invention from a nicely worked free-kick move in the 50th minute that caught the opposition defence off-guard.
Lastly, a quick word of praise for the speedy Marcelo Saracchi (No. 6, Danubio). Just before the hour-mark, he did well to make space for himself after taking on a defender and then firing low to draw a save from Fariñez; this, in turn, led to the foul that yielded the penalty.
Owing to his penalty save, goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez (No. 1, Caracas FC) understandably earned the headlines. It’s just the kind of highlight that could tip the balance in a move for this 18-year-old who already has a senior international cap and over 50 domestic club appearances to his name. He also did well to parry out De La Cruz’s well-struck first-half effort and often appeared assertive in his area. One small criticism though: Could he not have done better when palming out Saracchi’s shot straight to De La Cruz, which led to the latter being fouled, the awarding of a penalty and his defender Eduin Quero being sent off? Nevertheless, even if play was ultimately called back, he did recover impressively to save the rebound.
Perhaps the most eye-catching individual on the field was the diminutive Yeferson Soteldo (No. 10, Huachipato, Chile). He often seemed to be running the show for Venezuela, roaming forward, looking to make things happen, taking set-pieces and not being afraid to shoot. He nearly set up a goal in the 21st minute when he received a pass on the right, dipped his shoulder to evade a defender and put in a dangerous low ball, but Uruguay just about survived this scare. His nifty footwork sometimes led him into positions where he attempted to feed in team-mates; the closest to the target he came himself occurred in the 32nd minute when he played a one-two from a throw on the left and then aimed for the far post, though this went a few yards wide. When he was substituted in the 74th minute, he received a notable ovation from what must have been a largely neutral crowd.
The player Soteldo often sought out and who he played the one-two with, was Ronaldo Peña (No. 9, Las Palmas, Spain), another attacking midfielder/forward. Up until the very last minute he was very visible chasing every ball to the byline, creating space for himself and making life rather uncomfortable for the Uruguayan back-line. Given Soteldo’s withdrawal, come the final whistle, Peña was arguably getting even more praise on social media than the ex-Zamora man. On several occasions, he got within firing distance of the opposition goal but was thwarted, either by a block, a miscue or a clumsy challenge – such as the one in the 62nd minute which, irrespective of his pleas, the referee flatly waved away.
Impressing in a more subtle manner was holding midfielder and captain, Yangel Herrera (No. 8, Atlético Venezuela). As with Soteldo and Fariñez, he has already appeared for the senior side and the three of them, along with Peña, really did exhibit some much-needed confidence and drive that must have rubbed off on some of their compatriots. He often won midfield duels with the more highly-regarded Bentancur and, more than once, fed team-mates through with central, well-weighted passes. Although he was largely in the right place at the right time, he was nevertheless unlucky not to have scored with nine minutes remaining with his effort from a ricochet that his foe Bentancur brilliantly cleared on the line.
As well as the defence as a whole for rarely affording Uruguay a clear sight of goal, some positive words can be said for a few other individuals. Antonio Romero (No. 19, Deportivo Lara) often looked to get involved with his fellow attackers, most notably after 14 minutes when Peña robbed a defender before nudging the ball to Romero who, from 25 yards out, shaped to shoot, with his low, hard effort going just a yard or so wide. Seven minutes later, Sergio Córdova (No. 23, Caracas FC) perhaps had his country’s best chance to score in the first half when he inched inside the six-yard-box to get on the end of Soteldo’s wicked cross, forcing a save from very close range. Lastly, a quick word for substitute Ronaldo Lucena (No. 16, Zamora FC) to note that it was he who put in the free-kick that nearly led to a goal for Herrera.
Argentina 1-1 Peru
CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group B, 19 January 2017 (YouTube)
Defending champions Argentina may require a more effective Plan B, as it was not until the last minute that their blushes were spared here. Peru took the lead in the 12th minute, courtesy of a Roberto Siucho strike from range that took a wicked deflection before swerving past Ramiro Macagno. In the remainder of the half, Argentina may have seen more of the ball, but it was Peru who came closest to getting the game’s second goal. After the interval, the holders stepped things up a few notches and were at times almost camped around the periphery of the opposition area yet, particularly after they were reduced to ten men in the 84th minute, a defeat looked on the cards. However, just before the clock hit 90′, Lautaro Martínez struck home a fine equaliser and at least went some way towards softening some of the headlines the Argentine press had no doubt already written.
Perhaps even more so than his team-mates up until his well-taken goal, Lautaro Martínez (No. 9, Racing Club) had a frustrating evening. He was regularly involved in attempts to unlock the well-drilled Peruvian defence, yet he was often close and yet so far from doing so. Indeed, his best chance in the first half was a header from a cross that he rose well to greet but his effort lacked direction. Six minutes after the restart, he latched onto a ball yet was a bit too near to the goalkeeper whose gloves thwarted him when he attempted to hook it above him into the net. Another chance of note occurred in the 73rd minute when he received a pass in a promising position inside the area but struck it wide of the far post. Nevertheless, the young man ultimately got what he was after and, though he may have wanted more, one suspects plenty of chances await him in upcoming games.
17-year-old Ezequiel Barco (No. 10, Independiente) fed in Martínez for his 73rd-minute opportunity and he was to be similarly agitated whilst seeking an equaliser. Indeed, the roles were in the reverse earlier in the 53rd minute when the Racing man played a fine cutting pass to the left inside the area only for Barco to strike the ball wide of the far post. Shortly before, Barco had also curled a rasping free-kick just over the bar and overall, looks to be a likely threat in this tournament.
The man who actually set up Martínez’s goal was his club team-mate Brian Mansilla (No. 11, Racing Club); he brilliantly drove past two players from his own half before sliding it to the No. 9 for the strike. Previously, he too had looked to make things happen, but the closest he himself came occurred in the 68th minute when a diagonal ball somehow bounced through to him in the area but, from an awkward angle, he struck across the goal and wide.
From this game, other Argentine players could be picked out as likely to pose threats in their future encounters. However, as they were largely all constricted here to long range efforts, blocked attempts and other moments one can not get too excited about, it may be better to instead wait and let them give us something to really write home about.
As a collective, Peru deserve a lot of credit. After getting their early goal, they did well to keep Argentina at bay throughout the first half, almost nullifying them and actually coming closer themselves to scoring. As their opponents increased the pressure after the restart, so too did Peru raise their game at the back, scurrying in and around their area, seeking to close off every potential avenue. Though they ultimately succumbed, the back-line as a whole deserve credit and it will be interesting to see if they can maintain this level of performance in their other games, whilst also allowing their attackers to counter effectively.
That said, in this game their goal which allowed them to sit back and frustrate was a bit of a fluke. Roberto Siucho (No. 11, Universitario), deserves credit for being willing to strike from 25 yards out, but he was greatly aided by the deflection the ball took to bypass the Argentine goalkeeper. Nevertheless, though he was substituted in the 66th minute – presumably due to a knock he took – he often got forward and though he himself may not have come close to a second, he and others played a vital role in momentarily relieving the strained defence.
Another man who was often on the ball was striker Adrián Ugarriza (No. 19, Universitario). Now 20 and only eligible for this competition by a whisker, he actually appeared at 2015’s tournament, scoring two goals. Since then, he has moved to a bigger domestic club and thus with an age-advantage over quite possibly all his opponents this time around, he has an opportunity to really make his mark. In this match, he very nearly doubled the scoreline in the 30th minute when a flick-on fell in his path on the edge of the area and he struck low, drawing a fine save from the goalkeeper.
Despite having to settle for the draw, Peru nearly actually regained the lead in the third minute of stoppage-time. Indeed, substitute Miguel Castro (No. 14, Juan Aurich) ran over from the inside-left, jinking left and right into the area, before firing a right-footed strike that only went over by a mere yard or so. Whilst, overall, the Attempts statistics may look more favourably upon Argentina, in future games against – on paper, at least – weaker opposition, Peru’s attackers should have more opportunities to break free and create havoc.
To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter. The next games will be Brazil vs Chile and Ecuador vs Colombia from Group A – expect to see another bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com.