On the sixth day of the 2017 edition of the prestigious U-20 South American Youth Championship, attention turned back to Group B, with Peru taking on Venezuela and holders Argentina facing Bolivia. Below are video highlights, brief summaries of each game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting…
Peru 1-1 Venezuela
CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group B, 23 January 2017 (YouTube)
Venezuela struggled to create clear chances for the majority of this game, but a last-minute equaliser has greatly enhanced their chances of qualifying for the Final ‘Hexagonal’ Phase. Despite Peru coming closer to hitting the back of the net in the first half, it was the boys in burgundy who had the best opportunity to do so. Indeed, after being fouled in the 38th minute, Yangel Herrera dusted himself down to take a penalty but his strike was saved onto the bar, with his headed rebound also clipping the top of the framework. After the interval in the 56th minute, Venezuela were made to pay as Peru’s Roberto Siucho took advantage of some defensive indecision to rob the ball and nudge home for the lead. Subsequently, as the clock ticked away, Venezuela saw more of the ball but struggled to create clear chances; thankfully for them, there are always set-pieces. Indeed, in the 89th minute, Ronaldo Lucena’s free-kick was greeted ahead of the goalkeeper by the atoning Herrera, who nodded Venezuela level. However, barely a minute later the bacon-saver received his marching orders after a second yellow card. Nevertheless, thanks also in part to a fine late Wuilker Faríñez stop, Venezuela held on and now look to be in a better position than their opponents to nab one of the three final phase berths.
Off the back of their blip against Bolivia, Peru generally put in an admirable defensive performance that had more in common with their 1-1 draw against Argentina, rarely letting their opponents gain a clear sight of goal. Therefore, the concession of a late equaliser has really scuppered their chances of qualification, as they now have just the two points with only one game left – as opposed to the two of Venezuela, Uruguay and Bolivia.
If they are able to salvage their campaign on Friday against Uruguay, they will certainly require the creativity of 17-year-old Gerald Távara (No. 7, Sporting Cristal). Indeed, he was away early on, looking to set up and score. After four minutes he wasn’t far off bagging a gol olímpico (from a direct corner) and, three minute later, curled wide a free-kick from 30 yards. He came much closer in the 33rd minute, when a ball fell to him just outside the area on the centre-left; with his left peg, he struck a threatening diagonal shot that went barely a yard wide of the far post. Just after the interval in the 48th minute, he nearly turned provider when he curled in a fine free-kick from the right to the edge of the six-yard-box that found Adrián Ugarriza (No. 19, Universitario), but the latter’s powerful header lacked direction. He later hit another free-kick which went a yard or so wide, but ultimately, though he is quietly suggesting he may be one for the future, he was unable to find the net on this occasion.
However, the player who did get on the scoresheet – and who has netted both of his country’s two goals at this tournament – was Roberto Siucho (No. 11, Universitario). Earlier on in the 31st minute he had threatened the Venezuelan goal when he cut in from the right and sneaked in a left-footed effort; this picked up an opposition touch along the way which caused some additional uncertainty, with the goalkeeper ultimately glad to see it bobble wide. The goal itself came in the 56th minute out of nothing: a headed ball bounced uncomfortably in between two Venezuelan defenders; lacking in communication and decision-making, they allowed Siucho to march in to dispossess and embarrass them, before nudging the ball home to give his country the lead. Just over five minutes later, he actually had another chance; playing a one-two on the edge of the area, he charged forward and shaped for a shot, but was perhaps a bit too close as he struggled to bend the ball around the goalkeeper, who ultimately managed to divert it wide.
Instead, the closest Peru came to a second goal occurred at the death. Indeed, this chance came via a right-sided cross from Bryan Reyna (No. 8, Real Mallorca, Spain), who earlier actually had Peru’s first chance of the match, when he was played by Ugarriza into a half-decent position and subsequently saw his effort palmed over. In the 93rd minute, however, Reyna was looking to supply and his low ball bounced through to Ugarriza’s replacement Fernando Pacheco (No. 16, Sporting Cristal); he immediately snapped to strike a low drive towards the near corner but the goalkeeper was supremely alert to his intentions and denied him his glory with a fine save.
Captain Yangel Herrera (No. 8, Atlético Venezuela) had quite the game: he could well have ended up being scapegoated for failing to convert a penalty but instead will be hailed by many as a goalscoring saviour – albeit one whose elation was quickly soured by a red card. He played a useful role in his central midfield position, regularly halting central attacks as well as getting forward; senior captain Tomás Rincón may well have a useful partner-in-crime developing here. Indeed, following a left-sided low ball from wing-back José Hernández (No. 5, Caracas FC), it was actually Herrera himself who was fouled to win the 38th-minute penalty. However, though he drove his penalty with exemplary force, the semi-committed Peru goalkeeper did well to leave out a trailing arm which helped parry the ball onto the crossbar; for the rebound, Herrera had to wait for the bouncing ball to fall kindly for his header which, agonisingly, was directed a little too high, clipping the framework before going over. To his credit, he did not let this failure devour his drive and instead ploughed on in the second half admirably. In the 52nd minute, he slid the ball up to the edge of the area to provide a half-chance for the otherwise quiet Ronaldo Peña (No. 9, Las Palmas, Spain), but the latter did not get enough power or direction behind his saved effort. 12 minutes later from an awkward position, Herrera stabbed a knock-down a yard or so wide but, more substantial was a 71st-minute opportunity; here, he received back a one-two in the area, though found himself in a narrow, albeit close, position from which he nudged a low shot a couple of yards wide. Not to be denied though, in the 89th minute, substitute Ronaldo Lucena (No. 16, Zamora FC) displayed his abilities from set-pieces by curling in a fine free-kick from the left which Herrera rose to emphatically beat the goalkeeper to for the equaliser. His joy was short-lived, however, as barely a minute had passed before a late tackle led to him receiving his second yellow card; thus, with their skipper now out of Wednesday’s must-win game against Bolivia, manager Rafael Dudamel will need to find ways to plug the hole in the middle as well as find alternative ways to create chances.
One man who shall be crucial in unlocking the Bolivian defence will be Yeferson Soteldo (No. 10, Huachipato, Chile). However, though his fellow attackers may be equally culpable for the options they sometimes fail to provide him with, he will really need to improve his decision-making in the final third. Indeed, against Peru, he was frequently driving forward, dribbling the ball affectionately with perhaps the lowest centre of gravity that can be witnessed in the entire tournament, yet he struggled to create any clear chances. Perhaps the closest he came to being of effective assistance was the one-two that put Herrera in a somewhat tight shooting position; there were other moments involving the likes of Sergio Córdova (No. 23, Caracas FC), but nothing worth recording for posterity. At times he came across as a frustrating, tunnel-visioned ball-hogger, but these were often during the moments, particularly in the second half, when he also appeared to be running the show for his side. Ultimately, it is imperative for Venezuela that this raw natural talent is harnessed and guided towards more productive ends.
Lastly, the third of Venezuela’s trio of prime talents deserves a mention. Wuilker Fariñez (No. 1, Caracas FC) can not be blamed for the defensive calamity that was responsible for the goal, but he can certainly be credited with preserving his country’s point. Indeed, although his goal-frame was targeted a fair bit, aside perhaps from an early unexpected attempt direct from a corner and a 62nd-minute close-range Siucho effort, it wasn’t until the last minute of stoppage-time that heroics were demanded of him. He can not have had more than a split-second to anticipate Pacheco’s 93rd-minute strike from Reyna’s cross, but he was more than equal to it as he got down and maintained his side’s promising prospects with a strong save with his gloves.
Argentina 5-1 Bolivia
CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group B, 23 January 2017 (YouTube)
The first real hammering of the tournament occurred as Argentina all but assured their place in the Final Phase. Marcelo Torres opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, nodding in from Nahuel Molina’s cross. 13 minutes later, Bryan Mansilla made it 2-0 after a defensive gift allowed him to strike home low from outside the area into the far corner. Just before half time, Torres doubled his tally as he pounced to make it three, after Mansilla’s shot was spilt by goalkeeper Ruben Cordano. The second half began in similar fashion with Tomás Conechny repaying the faith shown in providing him with his first start by cutting inside from the right to strike home a 25-yard golazo with his left boot in the 55th minute. 14 minutes later, Lautaro Martínez crossed in for substitute Lucas Rodríguez’s powerful header to make it five. By this point, Los Pibes had taken things down a notch or two and, consequently, Bolivia made most of their forward forays in this period, even managing a consolation goal. It wasn’t a bad one either: in the 71st minute, substitute Ramiro Vaca curled a fine right-footed free-kick from 25 yards around the wall and into the back of the net.
He wasn’t prominently featured in many of the tournament previews but, with four goals, Marcelo Torres (No. 21, Boca Juniors) is currently the leading goalscorer – and deservedly so. He notched his first here when the cross of Nahuel Molina (No. 4, Boca Juniors) from deep on the right bounced for him to nod home to give his side the lead; his second came later in the first half when the Bolivian goalkeeper spilled a team-mate’s effort and he was on cue to tap in for 3-0. Otherwise, he was often to be found on the prowl in the final third; for example, in the 30th minute in the interim between his two goals, he had another noteworthy attempt, when he whacked a good, low, hard shot from the right, which was parried wide. Presumably to preserve his powers for future battles, he was denied a further half-hour of hat-trick hunting as he was substituted just before the clock struck 60′.
Brian Mansilla (No. 11, Racing Club) was withdrawn not long afterwards, most likely for similar reasons as he and Torres had been the best players of the first half. Indeed, it was he who scored the second goal of the rout after 36 minutes, capitalising on a defender’s dreadful pass that fell to his feet some 25 yards out in a central area; with the goalkeeper out of position, he then placed a textbook left-footed strike into the far corner. He also played a part in the third goal, as it was his strike from 20-odd yards out that was clumsily dealt with, enabling Torres to net his second.
The fourth goal was scored by Tomás Conechny (No. 20, San Lorenzo), who was rewarded here with his first start following his two assists from the bench against Uruguay. His 55th-minute effort was a stunning strike that came after he cut in on the right edge of the area and unloaded with his left, beating the goalkeeper at his near post. A fine golazo indeed and he could well have had another earlier in the 29th minute when he slalomed inside from the left past two players; alas, his strike inside the area with his less-fancied right was somewhat wild and wide of the mark. Otherwise, though he did not play as much of a critical role as he did on Saturday, he did certainly look to set up his team-mates. Perhaps his most notable supplementary effort came in the 42nd minute when he went past a player on the left, then played a low cross which Torres nabbed from surrounding defenders before, from an awkward position, forcing an attempt that went not too far wide.
Lastly, Lautaro Martínez (No. 9 Racing Club) also supplied at least a couple of reasons as to why he is one of Los Pibes’ stand-out performers thus far. Firstly, in the 11th minute from the inside-left, he forced a fine parry from the Bolivian goalkeeper when he rapidly struck a fierce effort with his right boot from 20 yards out. Then, later on in the 69th minute, he whipped in a cross from the left with his right that substitute Lucas Rodríguez (No. 7, Estudiantes de La Plata) did well to powerfully head home at the near post to make it 5-0.
Although they are not yet through, Argentina look to be on their way and, perhaps to nobody’s surprise, have demonstrated that they have some strength in depth in the forward ranks.
Aside from the consolation goal, a fine curled free-kick from substitute Ramiro Vaca (No. 10, Quebracho) some 25 yards out, it would be a tad superfluous to highlight potential cracks based on this performance. Indeed, although Juan Mercado (No. 2, Guabirá) should have also scored soon afterwards but instead missed a tap-in from a knock-on from a corner, both these and the other lesser Bolivian attempts on goal occurred when they were already well on their way to a hiding and Argentina had begun substituting some key players. Thus, while in the last 20-25 minutes the likes of Moisés Villarroel (No. 8, Bolívar) and Bruno Miranda (No. 11, Universidad de Chile, Chile) – though less so erstwhile star Limberg Gutiérrez (No. 20, Nacional, Uruguay), who had a quiet game – exhibited some signs of attacking life, one can almost strike this evidence from the record.
Off the back of a respectable debut tournament performance, goalkeeper Rubén Cordano (No. 1, Blooming) also had a poor game, despite a good early save from Martínez. Nevertheless, if he and his colleagues can regroup, then despite having suffered the first tonking of Ecuador 2017, they are actually still in with a good chance of qualifying second in Group B. Indeed, with three points and two games left against Venezuela and then Uruguay, all may not be so bad in the camp after all.
To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter. The next games will be Paraguay vs Chile & Colombia vs Brazil from Group A – expect to see another bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com.