On the fourth day of the 2017 edition of the prestigious U-20 South American Youth Championship, attention turned back to Group B, with Peru taking on Bolivia and holders Argentina facing Uruguay. Below are video highlights, brief summaries of each game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting…
Peru 0-2 Bolivia
CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group B, 21 January 2017 (YouTube)
Peru were unfortunate not to beat Argentina in their opening game but, to the surprise of some, they came unstuck here against a well-organised Bolivia. In what was a game not short of open spaces, Peru enjoyed the better of the early exchanges, though Bolivia gradually grew in confidence. Despite this, it was nevertheless somewhat unanticipated when Ronaldo Monteiro chased a ball hoisted upfield and slid home the opener after 55 minutes. Further confounding expectations, Bolivia didn’t merely sit back and cling onto their rare lead. Instead, towards the end of their admirable debut performance, they doubled the scoreline, with Limberg Gutiérrez playing in Bruno Miranda to seal the win.
They only made four changes from the side that nearly beat Argentina, so one can not help but feel that, though having to play twice in three days may have taken its toll, Peru may be better off playing counter-attack football rather than conceding so much open space. Indeed, both Bolivian goals, as well as some other opposition attacks, made Peru look potentially porous, with some of their defenders being either too slow to keep apace of forwards or simply rather sluggish in foreseeing danger.
That said, they did appear to be edging things for at least the first half-hour or so. Although no individual could really be said to have stood out, there were at least a couple of attacks of note. Firstly, in the 21st minute, 17-year-old left-footed corner-taker Gerald Távara (No. 7, Sporting Cristal) swung in a cross that was greeted in a prime central position by fellow 17-year-old club team-mate Fernando Pacheco (No. 17, Sporting Cristal); alas, though his connection certainly possessed power, it was a bit too close to the goalkeeper, who nevertheless deserves credit for getting two strong gloves behind the ball for the parry. Secondly, five minutes later, the perhaps unfortunately-named Mark Estrella (No. 18, Universidad San Martín de Porres), chipped a fine ball forward up the inside-right channel to Rely Fernández (No. 22, Carlos A. Mannucci); with a deft chest, he took it in his stride into the area, though again, despite having the goalkeeper in his sights, his shot from a slight angle went straight at the shot-stopper.
If such chances had been taken, things may indeed have been different. Alas, as this performance left much to be desired, one has to hope that they put in better showings in their other two group games.
In a game in which the perceived quality was condemned by some before a ball had even been kicked, one man stood out above all others: Limberg Gutiérrez (No. 20, Nacional, Uruguay), son of a much-capped former international who he shares his name with. He was often to be found attacking up the inside-left, looking to create chances as well as get away the odd shot himself. He also vied for set-piece duties with another dead-ball threat, Moisés Villarroel (No. 8, Bolívar), and displayed a moment of slight ingenuity in the 33rd minute. Here, as if to highlight that those around him may be on a different wavelength, his diagonal pass to play in Henry Vaca (No. 22, O’Higgins, Chile) in the area ended in embarrassment for the latter; he could not take the ball in his stride, let alone shape to take a shot. Nevertheless, Gutiérrez also had a couple of chances to score himself, with the first of these coming in the 35th minute. At this moment, from the inside-left, he capitalised on a poor clearance, audaciously outpacing a defender into the left side of the area before firing a cross-goal strike, which had to be parried out.
Later on in the 80th minute, following a one-two with Ronaldo Monteiro (No. 9, Bolívar) – target-man and scorer of the 55th-minute opener – Gutiérrez found himself in the area on the left with the goalkeeper in his sights. However, perhaps not believing he hadn’t been flagged offside, he hesitated and hit a somewhat tame shot into the side-netting. Nevertheless, he compensated for this in the 89th minute when he brilliantly turned to leave his marker for dead and then paced up his trusty inside-left channel towards the area. Here, he slid in Bruno Miranda (No. 11, Universidad de Chile, Chile), who finished the job to make it 2-0. Furthermore, a few minutes later, the scorer was not far off bagging another goal with a well-struck shot from the edge of the area, though this was parried out wide.
Finally, though one suspects he will be picking the ball out of his net a fair bit over the next week or so, goalkeeper Rubén Cordano (No. 1, Blooming) often appeared assured and pulled off two or three decent saves, the most notable being a close-range parry from Pacheco’s strong header in the 21st minute.
Argentina 3-3 Uruguay
CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group B, 21 January 2017 (YouTube)
For the second day in a row, the second game of the day proved to be a thriller, with both teams coming into it with much to prove after disappointing opening matches. Naturally, some changes were paid and within four minutes, one paid dividends for Uruguay as Rodrigo Amaral hit an unstoppable strike from 25 yards out. Argentina were back on level terms in the 24th minute when Marcelo Torres controlled a diagonal ball, dipped a shoulder and impressively struck home. However, just before half time his side fell behind again as a penalty was converted by Nicolás De La Cruz, who this time took a more prosaic approach from 12 yards. Argentina generally had the better of the second half, knocking on the door, though it wasn’t until the 74th minute that Torres got his second with a powerful header from a corner. It then felt as if only one side could get a third goal but that was soon dispelled when Uruguay won a penalty out of nowhere in the 82nd minute; De La Cruz was no longer on the pitch, so Nicolás Schiappacasse stepped up. However, though Ramiro Macagno saved both his spot-kick and Waller’s rebound, the goalkeeper diverted the latter back to the feet of Schiappacasse, who was able to give Uruguay the lead. Several minutes later though, Rodrigo Bentancur hindered their cause by receiving his marching orders and alas, they could not hold on. In stoppage-time, a Tomás Conechny corner was nodded home, seemingly by the celebrating Lautaro Martínez, though some sources have credited it as an own-goal. Thus, it ended all-square and despite having both played a game extra than Bolivia, it is the unfancied side who are currently at high-altitude atop Group B.
Playing his first game of the tournament, striker Marcelo Torres (No. 21, Boca Juniors), certainly took his chance, netting two clinical goals. The first came in the 24th minute when a fine, long-range diagonal ball from club team-mate, right-back Nahuel Molina (No. 4, Boca Juniors), was sent over to the left side of the area. Torres controlled exquisitely with the outside of his right boot, before nudging it past a defender and brilliantly striking home. Much later on in the 73rd minute, he did well to get onto the end of a fine free-kick aimed towards the back post; though the angle was difficult, he was nevertheless able to create discomfort and uncertainty with a header that was ultimately diverted wide. From the resulting corner, he rose in exemplary fashion to power home a bullet-header to make it 2-2.
The man who put in both of these pin-point left-footed crosses for Torres was substitute Tomás Conechny (No. 20, San Lorenzo). He came on for the final 20 minutes and is clearly a vital weapon to have sitting about on the bench as he was also responsible for the stoppage-time equaliser. Indeed, his corner was nodded in, some – probably correctly – said by defender Agustín Rogel for an own-goal, while others were willing to credit striker Lautaro Martínez (No. 9 Racing Club). He was somewhat of a lesser threat than he had been against Peru, with the closest he had previously come to scoring in this game being a 31st-minute header that was literally punched into his direction. This came from a sudden rebound after the Uruguayan goalkeeper reacted instinctively to a surprise shot from the left side. Brian Mansilla (No. 11, Racing Club) was behind this effort and, later on in the 80th minute, he came rather close to getting on the scoresheet when he shot again from another position that most mortals would have crossed from – this time he clipped the bar.
Before Conechny came on in the 70th minute to boost the goal-hunt, it was the man he replaced who appeared to be the likeliest candidate to be a supplier or scorer. 17-year-old Ezequiel Barco (No. 10, Independiente) was not far away from the scoresheet on at least three occasions: in the 23rd minute, when he struck a swerving 35-yard free-kick which had to be parried low for a corner; in the 53rd minute, when another free-kick curled low around the wall some 20-odd yards out and again had to be parried to the side; and in the 60th minute, when he collected a ball on the right side of the area, shimmied his way into a slightly better position, before striking with his – possibly weaker – left boot, which went a yard or two wide of the far post. At the time, it seemed a slight surprise that Barco was withdrawn from the field, but it is possible that his energy is being saved for upcoming battles; at his age, one would have thought that the coaching staff will be careful not to demand too much, too soon. Nevertheless, expect to see much more of him.
He was a second-half substitute against Venezuela, but here charging midfielder Rodrigo Amaral (No. 10, Nacional, Uruguay) was granted a start as well as the captain’s armband – he did not take long to formally announce himself to observers. Indeed, barely three minutes had gone when he picked up the ball on the inside-left, advanced to 25 yards out and then struck a sensational swerving left-footed shot with the outside of his left boot which crashed into the net for the lead. Just a couple of minutes later, he curled in a fine cross which Agustín Canobbio (No. 19, Fénix) met with a diving header that necessitated a parry. Later on in the 53rd minute, Amaral displayed another aspect of his attacking arsenal when he drew a decent save from a fine free-kick some 25 yards out. Though he was withdrawn from the pitch after 66 minutes when his side was still leading, one suspects that this must have been to protect him ahead of future encounters in this tightly-scheduled competition.
Another man substituted off who nevertheless left a lasting impression was Nicolás De La Cruz (No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay). He especially came to life in the last five or so minutes of the first half, when he looked to play through his team-mates with short defence-splitting passes and even had a chance from open play himself. Indeed, this came in the 43rd minute when Facundo Waller (No. 15, Plaza Colonia) – who, whilst rarely generating any eye-catching highlights himself nevertheless appears to be a useful player – set him up with a pass into the area. De La Cruz looked as if he felt the flag was going to be raised and thus ended up hitting a low shot lacking direction or intent at the goalkeeper. However, his most memorable moment occurred in first-half stoppage-time when he went some way towards putting the ghosts of a mere two days ago behind him. Indeed, rather than opt for another Panenka-esque chipped penalty, he instead dispatched his spot-kick in textbook fashion, aiming hard for the top corner.
The other leading attack-minded player, Nicolás Schiappacasse (No. 9, Atlético Madrid), also directly contributed to the result as well as helped to make things happen for others. Indeed, though he missed an opportunity in the first half that De La Cruz set up, he himself looked to make things happen and won some set-pieces throughout the game, including the noted free-kick taken by Amaral as well as the second penalty of the match. This, occurring after he was on the receiving end of a clumsy hack in the 82nd minute at a time when De La Cruz was no longer on the pitch, was taken by Schiappacasse himself. However, his low effort was at a good height for Macagno who parried, yet unfortunately for the goalkeeper, despite also saving a rebound by Waller, the ball fell kindly to Schiappacasse who put Uruguay ahead 3-2 with his first goal of the tournament.
To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter. The next games will be Brazil vs Paraguay and Ecuador vs Chile from Group A – expect to see another bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com.