On the fifth day of the 2017 edition of the prestigious U-20 South American Youth Championship, attention turned back to Group A, with Brazil taking on Paraguay and hosts Ecuador facing Chile. Below are video highlights, brief summaries of each game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting…
Brazil 3-2 Paraguay
CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group A, 22 January 2017 (YouTube)
Following on from their Chile stalemate, Brazil made a fairly unremarkable start to this match, but gradually regained some attacking impetus to see off Paraguay in a manner more comfortable than the scoreline suggests. Richarlison had already hit the post before Matheus Sávio put Brazil 1-0 up in the 39th minute with a somewhat fortuitous free-kick that took a wicked deflection. Richarlison doubled the lead in the 57th minute, finishing off a Route One move that was flicked on by Felipe Vizeu from goalkeeper Caíque’s clearance upfield. A couple of minutes later Paraguay were down to ten men and, in the 65th minute, the third goal arrived when Mattheus Sávio dinked a short ball into the area which Léo Jabá beat the goalkeeper to, allowing Felipe Vizeu a tap-in. Throughout most of the game, Paraguayan fans hadn’t had much to cheer about though, somewhat surprisingly, Jesús Medina did manage to pull two goals back. The first of these in the 80th minute was a well-executed penalty; the second, which came in stoppage-time, was rather easy on the eye, as his left-footed strike dipped into the top corner – though spoil-sports have their duty to point out that it was aided by a deflection.
Enjoying his first minutes of the competition, Matheus Sávio (No. 20, Flamengo) was a regular presence in attacking moves. He could be seen sliding in a team-mate for a decent chance early on and had at least one shot from range before he broke the deadlock; this came via an admittedly fluky, deflected free-kick in the 39th minute that never would have gone in had it not had its path drastically altered. In the second half, he continued to look to make things happen, notably dinking the ball forward that one team-mate squared to another for the third goal. Felipe Vizeu (No. 9, Flamengo) was the man who finished this move off; he doubled his tally for the tournament and he had earlier also been credited with an assist for nodding on the upfield clearance of goalkeeper Caíque (No. 23, Vitória), which led to the second goal in the 57th minute.
This, in turn, was finished off by Richarlison (No. 18, Fluminense), another player who has stood out in the tournament. Earlier in the 12th minute, he was played in on the left side of the area by Matheus Sávio and struck the post with a low drive. Later on in the 28th minute, he nearly got an assist to his name when, from the left byline, he made some space to put in a well-directed cross with his right boot which glided straight to the back post to the feet of a team-mate.
However, Léo Jabá (No. 19, Corinthians) could only strike directly at the goalkeeper when a goal seemed quite likely. Nevertheless, although he previously had one substitute appearance to his name, like Matheus Sávio, Léo Jabá was also making his first start of the competition. Similarly difficult to ignore, he was particularly involved in the second half, striking across goal just a yard or so wide in the 51st minute. Most notably, he gained a well-earned assist in the 65th minute when he beat the goalkeeper to Matheus Sávio’s pass and simply slid it to Felipe Vizeu to make it 3-0. Later on, he had at least a couple more shots of his own, the most notable coming from a rebound in the 76th minute. Here, David Neres (No. 11, São Paulo) again displayed his capacity for fierce strikes, with his left-footed effort from the edge of the area causing the goalkeeper a fright, though he nevertheless parried. Léo Jabá then picked up the ball from a tight angle, managing to get in a shot that rolled across the goalmouth and narrowly wide.
Paraguay had much less to say for themselves and, based on the evidence so far, are not looking likely to progress to the final stage. Nevertheless, though it seemed like they could be on the receiving end of a tonking when they were 3-0 down and a man short owing to the stupidity of supposed talent Julio Villalba (No. 7, Cerro Porteño, on loan from Borussia Monchengladbach, Germany), an indisputable stand-out performer did ultimately emerge.
Jesús Medina (No. 11, Libertad) was their most creative player, even if the pickings were slim for much of the game. In the first half, he never got close to the opposition goal himself but put in a few balls, most notably a low one that went over to a compatriot on the right edge of the area, who hit a seemingly tame shot. Perhaps it was the bounce, but Caíque spilled this to striker Sebastián Ferreira (No. 19, Olimpia) at a tight angle and had it not been for the goalkeeper’s trailing leg, the Paraguayan striker would have had his second goal of the competition; instead the ball trickled wide for a corner. Alas, it was when the clock was against his team that Medina really made his mark. His first goal was an expertly taken penalty in the 80th minute; his second, in stoppage-time, was an eye-catching left-footed strike into the top corner hit from the right side of the area, though it did appear to get a flick off a defender to aid its loop over Caíque.
Though one’s eyes may have been playing tricks again, Paraguay did have one other chance of note to score that did not actually involve Medina. This came from the corner that followed Ferreira’s close-range shot in the first half; from the left, Blás Riveros (No. 4, Basel, Switzerland) crossed in to the dead centre, but though Jorge Morel (No. 8, Guaraní) rose in space, his header was well off-target. Nevertheless, this re-affirmed that Europe-based left-back Riveros, who also set up Ferreira’s goal against Colombia, is a creative threat.
Ecuador 1-1 Chile
CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group A, 22 January 2017 (YouTube)
Hosts Ecuador came into this off the back of an exhilarating 4-3 win, yet though they took the lead here and could have been two-up, they let their opponents more into the game in the second half and succumbed to a draw. Indeed, after surviving an early scare, it was Jordan Sierra whose persistent hustling saw him enter the area and strike in low off the far post for the 7th-minute opener; later in the 39th minute, his side should have had a second but Joao Rojas’ clinical shot was incorrectly ruled to be offside. Chile missed a glaring chance to be level in the 61st minute, but just under twenty minutes later, they were able to restore parity. Indeed, in a tale of two Sierras, substitute José Luis was on hand to meet a fine cross with an adept low volley to square things up. Ecuador rallied towards the end but the score remained 1-1; thus, the hosts may rue an opportunity missed and though Chile had two head-in-hands moments of their own, one suspects that they will be more pleased with the point.
A lot of praise should be rightfully reserved for the manner in which the first goal was scored by Jordan Sierra (No. 15, Delfin). Following a poor goalkeeping clearance, a team-mate pounced on a defender who could only run into the trouble embodied by Sierra. The Ajax-target then showed great tenacity and desire to hold off and evade the challenges of two defenders before, somewhat surprisingly, sneaking in a shot that trickled off the far post and in. Otherwise, he was involved in other attacks, including a minor role in the offside goal by mere virtue of playing in the initial free-kick; more generally, it was good to see other sides to his game as in previous matches his most notable contributions had been some long-range efforts. Here, however, not only did he get a goal but he almost came close to winning the game late on when, following some Chilean attempts to repel Ecuadorian pressure, the ball fell to him on the dee; with one touch, he made space for himself in the area and struck a swerving half-volley that went barely a yard wide of the far post.
The man who charged at the left-back to facilitate the start of Sierra’s drive for his goal was Joao Rojas (No. 17, Emelec); this was the third successive Ecuador game in which he made some notable contributions and really should have had a goal in the 39th minute. Indeed, following Sierra’s free-kick, there was a bit of to-and-fro on the edge of the area before the ball fell in space to Rojas, who struck a low right-footed shot into the corner. Replays clearly show him to be onside but the flag nevertheless went up.
Pervis Estupiñán (No. 6, Granada, Spain) caught the eye again, though not always for the right reasons. Indeed, after his goalscoring game against Colombia it was noted here that he may be better off further up the flank; for this argument, this game provided more evidence. Chile had two attempts – one in the 5th minute that was saved against the post, the other being their equaliser – where crosses came in from their left to unmarked players hovering around the right of the central area. One could be wrong and it may be a flaw in the defensive system, but as Estupiñán is nominally a left-back and, more to the point, the man who was closest to the attacker in both cases, one suspects that he was culpable for not dealing with the trouble. Nevertheless, true to form, up the other end he sought to cause problems. Indeed, in the 38th minute, his compatriot Washington Corozo (No. 7, Independiente Del Valle) went on an impressive run, where he sped Bolt-like past a defender and then engaged in a spot of Ricky Villa-esque zig-zag dribbling before getting dispossessed; however, the ball fell to Estupiñán who struck with his trusty left boot, forcing the goalkeeper to instinctively tip over for a corner. More significantly, later on in the 90th minute just before Sierra had his last-gasp chance, Estupiñán came bustling into the area on the left, before turning the ball over to his – presumably weaker – right boot; yet, despite the crowd anticipating with bated breath a winner, his shot went a couple of yards wide of the near post.
Though at half-time it looked as if Chile could end up getting comfortably dispatched, they did grow into the game; yet, had they taken an early golden opportunity, the complexion of the match could have been quite different. Indeed, there had not really been much for La Rojita fans to get excited about, with their situation compounded by the surprising – to these eyes, at least – substitution of one of their potential threats, Carlos Lobos (No. 21, Universidad Católica).
However, their defence appears to be stronger than their attack, so they may have relished the opportunity to sit back and play on the counter had Ignacio Jara (No. 15, Cobreloa) scored after 5 minutes. Indeed, a fine ball from the left was played over to him in space at the back post; he met it with a diving header that he knocked downwards and which then bounced up but, unfortunately for him, it was too close to goalkeeper José Cevallos, who impressively palmed it onto the post. Jara was a little unfortunate here but he did ultimately compensate for this later on in the 80th minute as it was his perfect cross from the left that substitute José Luis Sierra (No. 22, Unión Española) coolly volleyed home. Regarding the Roja Sierra, he also has a relative who played professionally for his country: his father, also called José Luis Sierra, who played over 50 times for Chile, mostly in the 1990s.
Before this equaliser went in, the boys in red had been getting forward a little more in the second half and had already squandered a gilt-edged opportunity. This came about in the 61st minute following a fine right-sided cross from Raimundo Rebolledo (No. 2, Universidad Católica) which found Lobos’ replacement, Yerko Leiva (No. 6, Universidad de Chile), in clear space, one-on-one, eight yards out. However, he must have anticipated the ball’s flight incorrectly, as he embarrassingly sliced his low volley high and wide of the target.
To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter. The next games will be Peru vs Venezuela and Argentina vs Bolivia from Group B – expect to see another bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com.