On the eighth day of the 2017 edition of the prestigious U-20 South American Youth Championship, attention turned back to Group B, with Venezuela taking on Bolivia and Uruguay facing Peru. Below are video highlights, brief summaries of each game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting…
Venezuela 0-0 Bolivia
CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group B, 25 January 2017 (YouTube)
Although this must-win game for Venezuela ended goalless, were it to be judged on Golden Opportunities Wasted, they would have roared to at least a 7-2 hammering. The main culprit of the first half was José Balza, who missed two gilt-edged chances; soon after the interval he was replaced by Yeferson Soteldo, whose presence seemed to spark life into both sides. Indeed, around the hour-mark, a previously insipid game became very much end-to-end, with Bolivia twice nearly making their opponents pay for their profligacy. Nevertheless, it was Venezuela who were the elite goalmouth villains here, with Ronaldo Peña, in particular, guilty of haplessly missing a hat-trick of chances; on two of these occasions, he was presented with near-open goals. Thus, Bolivia somehow survived and could well afford to lose their final match against Uruguay and yet still qualify for the Hexagonal. Venezuela, on the other hand, may rue their collective squandering for a long time as they will need a result against Argentina – and, if they can only manage a draw, require Bolivia to lose – in order to progress.
With Benfica and Manchester City target Yangel Herrera suspended and Yeferson Soteldo (No. 10, Huachipato, Chile) starting on the bench, it was difficult to see how Venezuela were going to undo the Bolivian back-line. Consequently, the first half was a little flat, though the burgundy boys did nevertheless manage to create at least two clear scoring opportunities; however, Soteldo’s introduction in the 52nd minute certainly increased the tempo and creativity. Doubts had been raised pre-game about the diminutive dribbler’s temperament and decision-making but he can’t be faulted for the stalemate here, as he played a part in three of his side’s five further chances in the second half. Elsewhere on the field, Ronaldo Lucena (No. 16, Zamora FC) took his chance with his first start by setting up some opportunities from crosses and, similarly, Heber García (No. 14. Deportivo La Guaira) also provided some invention. With more mixed results, Sergio Córdova (No. 23, Caracas FC) could at times be another effective threat.
However, departing from the usual structure somewhat, rather than detailing all of the most noteworthy players’ eye-catching contributions, what follows is a list of the seven key chances squandered. Supplemented by a perusal of the video highlights, acclaim and condemnation shouldn’t be hard to apportion.
1) 7th min: From the right, Lucena put in a fine cross that José Balza (No. 7, Carabobo) easily out-jumped the goalkeeper for, yet couldn’t direct his header beneath the crossbar, instead seeing it go over.
2) 13th min: On the inside-right, Ronaldo Peña (No. 9, Las Palmas, Spain) did well to play on a ball for Balza to latch onto in the area; however, the first-time starter amateurishly screwed a dreadful attempt well off-target, when a competent professional would have been expected to at least make the goalkeeper work for a save.
3) 54th min: Fresh to the pitch, Yeferson Soteldo received a nice touch by Peña on the left side of the area before giving a defender the runaround one way and then another. He made space for himself to be able to lay the ball to Córdova some 12 yards out yet, though the Caracas FC man had three Bolivians in his eye-line, he really should have done better than the pathetic attempt that scuffed wide.
4) 60th min: Córdova went some way towards atoning for this when he worked his way past two players on the right before sliding the ball across the goalmouth, gifting Peña what was easily the best opportunity. However, from barely four yards out, the Las Palmas youngster air-kicked what was meant to be a right-footed tap-in and the ball instead embarrassingly rebounded against his left heel and up into the air, leading to a fruitless scramble.
5) 78th min: From the right edge of the area with his left boot, García knocked in a low bouncing ball that found its way through to the back post towards Peña and Soteldo. However, despite the latter’s close proximity, Peña maintained his focus on the ball’s trajectory as it came over to him, yet somehow nevertheless missed what should have been a low header at the back post past the goalkeeper.
6) 84th min: Goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez (No. 1, Caracas FC) rapidly began a move with a great throw up the right flank towards Soteldo, who did brilliantly to dash past an opponent and ultimately dink in a ball from the byline. Lucena cushion-headed this back to Peña, yet to nobody’s surprise, instead of bulging the net with a 15-yard half-volley, he saw his horrible miscue go high and wide. Faith in Peña, who had earned many plaudits for his harrying and hassling against Uruguay, was virtually non-existent at this point; perhaps he is more effective playing a support role, connecting attackers and pressuring opponents into errors, rather than being gift-wrapped chances to make some howlers of his own.
7) 93rd min: With one last throw of the dice, Soteldo slid through Antonio Romero (No. 19, Deportivo Lara) on the inside-right of the area. However, despite only having the goalkeeper to beat, instead of composing himself, he leant back and stretched somewhat when connecting with the ball; thus, his shot, with a fatalistic air of predictably, went wide of the near post.
These were the most exasperating opportunities, though some may wish to add to the list the 27th-minute header that Williams Velásquez (No. 2, Estudiantes de Caracas) awkwardly, back-to-goal, knocked over from another good Lucena free-kick.
Ultimately, though Venezuela will be grateful for the return of captain Herrera to bolster attacks whilst shoring things up defensively against Argentina on Friday, they face an uphill task before one even begins to worry about chances being finished off. Indeed, their opponents are comfortably the highest-scorers in the competition and may well expose Venezuela’s defensive record (one conceded – also the tournament’s best) as being a somewhat false reflection of the reality. Time shall tell, though it would be a disappointment to lose the likes of Soteldo, Herrera and Fariñez early, when a Final Phase spot had seemed so eminently attainable.
Somewhat remarkably, they now have four points and, if Argentina beat Venezuela, can afford a loss against Uruguay and still progress past Group B. They were second-best in this game and virtually all of their players who had impressed in their opening win against Peru did little of note here. Indeed, any lustre goalkeeper Rubén Cordano (No. 1, Blooming) may have gained following that match has by now well and truly worn off. He was not responsible for stopping any of Venezuela’s glaring misses and had Balza displayed more direction and anticipation, then he would have been culpable for at least the first of these. Furthermore, in the 64th minute following a cynical kick to halt Córdova’s charge just outside of his area, many Venezuelans were angered to see him only receive a yellow card.
The outfield stars from that opening win were little better, though Bruno Miranda (No. 11, Universidad de Chile, Chile) could well have scored twice. Firstly, in the 59th minute, 17-year-old Ramiro Vaca (No. 10, Quebracho) – who could be one-to-watch in the long run, having scored a free-kick against Argentina and having had another decent one parried here – dinked a short diagonal ball over to him on the left inside the area. From here, Miranda gained some space from a defender by getting the ball over to his right yet, though many were anticipating a goal, he instead struck a couple of yards wide of the near post. Things became rather end-to-end at this stage and just a few minutes later, a Bolivian ball was pumped clear and chased by Miranda; he did well to outpace a defender and then loop it over the outcoming Fariñez, though he couldn’t quite knock it in from the other side as a defender just about got the better of a ball that was bouncing perilously in the goalmouth.
Nevertheless, despite this rather poor display which perhaps should have ended with a scoreline similar to the one that Argentina inflicted upon them, Bolivia go into the final day as favourites to nab the third qualifying position.
Uruguay 2-0 Peru
CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group B, 25 January 2017 (YouTube)
Though it was by no means a vintage performance, Uruguay did what they needed to in order to spring up to 2nd in Group B, whilst simultaneously eliminating an uninspiring Peru side. With what was his nation’s fourth penalty in three games – and only the second to be successfully converted – Rodrigo Amaral gave them an early lead with his second goal of the tournament. Although Peru did threaten, Uruguay looked likelier to double their lead and did so in the 63rd minute when Nicolás Schiappacasse also notched his second competition goal with a fine left-footed strike from the inside-left of the area. Though shortly afterwards Peru’s Adrián Ugarriza hit the post and Uruguayan substitute Santiago Viera was quickly red-carded, La Celeste‘s youngsters held on for the three crucial points.
As against Argentina, Rodrigo Amaral (No. 10, Nacional, Uruguay) put his side ahead within the first ten minutes, this time from a confidently-executed penalty. Again, he was to be found running at defenders with Rooney-esque (circa. 2004) fearlessness and put in at least a couple of decent balls that fell into good positions, even if there was no-one there to meet them. He also had a couple of chances to shoot from open play, such as in the 18th minute when he brilliantly turned a player and then struck well from 25 yards, though it went a couple of yards wide. Later, just before half-time, he received a pass on the left inside the area but, owing to his awkward position, could only strike into the side-netting. Similar to the Argentina game, he had a quieter second half and so, whether for fitness or performance reasons, he was substituted off in the 70th minute.
The man who slid in Amaral for his half-time opportunity and who also won the 9th-minute penalty was Nicolás Schiappacasse (No. 9, Atlético Madrid). His second-half goal, for which he latched onto a left-sided pass from Matías Viña (No. 17, Nacional), was rather well-taken from inside of the area and was the sign of a natural marksman – even if the goalkeeper probably should have got closer to a strike at his near post.
Otherwise, there were a few other moments of note: in the 11th minute, José Rodríguez (No. 4, Danubio) strode forward and played it to the edge of the area to club team-mate Marcelo Saracchi (No. 6, Danubio); with his upper body, he guided it into his own path then flicked an effort with the outside of his left boot which the goalkeeper just about touched over his head and onto the top of the crossbar. Later in the 59th minute, Facundo Waller (No. 15, Plaza Colonia) did well to drive into the area on the inside-left before striking low to force a parry for a corner. Lastly, in the 72nd minute shortly after Nicolás De La Cruz (No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay) had taken the place as well as the captain’s armband from Amaral, he displayed some nice footwork on the right to beat a few players and have a one-two returned to him; alas, his shot from inside the area was on the stretch and well over.
The 77th-minute straight red card of another substitute, Santiago Viera (No. 21, Liverpool, Uruguay), seven minutes after he had come on, may have made the final quarter-hour a tad tighter but, as his game-time so far has been restricted to two very brief appearances from the bench, Uruguay should be fine without him. Indeed, though they are not yet through to the Hexagonal stage, sitting 2nd in the table and with Bolivia as their final opponents, they should be feeling rather confident.
Alas, the time has come to say goodbye to Peru, who have amassed just two points from four games. Though they were rather unlucky to have succumbed to last-minute equalisers in their games against Argentina and Venezuela, they struggled to really sparkle at any point as an attacking force and have especially paid the price for surprisingly getting turned over by Bolivia.
Here against Uruguay, they did get forward from time to time but were already two goals behind and heading out before they had their best chance, which came in the 69th minute. Just inside the area on the inside-left, striker Adrián Ugarriza (No. 19, Universitario) did rather well to control with his left and make some space from a defender, before quickly firing with his right; unfortunately, his shot hit the near post and went out wide.
Otherwise, perhaps the next best chance Peru had was all the way back in the 4th minute when Miguel Castro (No. 14, Juan Aurich) struck a good, left-footed effort from 30 yards which had to be parried low and then quickly cleared. In the 44th minute, Castro also played in a decent free-kick from the inside-right which looked promising for Fernando Pacheco (No. 16, Sporting Cristal), but his header went comfortably over.
Ultimately, throughout Peru’s tournament, there were always players who showed glimpses of ability that suggested that they could take the bull by the horns in future games and become impossible to ignore. However, this never really materialised. There are undeniably some useful creative players in this Peru team who may well receive regular call-ups to the senior side at some point in their professional careers, but on the evidence of the past eight days, one could not confidently assert which individuals these are likely to be.
To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter. The next games will be Colombia vs Chile & Ecuador vs Paraguay, the final games from Group A – expect to see another bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com.