The first game which took place on Hexagonal Matchday 2 of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw Colombia face Argentina. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting…
Colombia 1-2 Argentina
CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 2 February 2017 (YouTube)
Argentina gained a last-gasp victory against Colombia to get their qualification plans back on track. Following a forgettable 3-0 defeat against Uruguay, they needed to re-assert themselves as contenders in this tournament and, in ultra-quick fashion, did. Indeed, after just 19 seconds, Marcelo Torres superbly controlled a diagonal ball and then curled it into the back of the net to give his side the lead. Despite this start, the rest of the half was less dynamic though Colombia may feel aggrieved to have had a goal ruled out for offside. However, they were on level terms some 12 minutes after the restart when Juan Hernández managed to head home a knock-on from a free-kick. Subsequently, it wasn’t really until the last twenty minutes that Argentina began pushing with some concerted pressure and they were to be aided by the dismissal of Colombia’s Eduard Atuesta in the 79th minute. Indeed, in stoppage-time they nabbed the win, as Tomás Conechny brilliantly controlled a long ball, then found Lautaro Martinez who cleverly tapped in to make the final score 2-1.
Once again, Juan ‘El Cucho’ Hernández (No. 10, América de Cali, on loan from Granada, Spain) asserted himself as Colombia’s most important attacking player. In the 24th minute, he was rather unfortunate to have a goal ruled out for offside, though much later in the 57th minute, he was able to legally find the back of the net. Indeed, from a central free-kick dinked into the area, Julián Quiñones (No. 7, Tigres, Mexico) chested it upwards and into the direction of Hernández who beat the outcoming goalkeeper to the ball to head home. Otherwise, he could well have scored again in the 74th minute when he chased the clearance of goalkeeper Manuel Arias (No. 12, Cortuluá) towards the byline on the left, yet despite gaining space from a defender, his attempt to curl in from an angle went wildly over.
Ever Valencia (No. 13, Atlético Bucaramanga) was the man responsible for chipping in the free-kick that led to the Colombian goal. In the first half, he could well have had a direct assist when another free-kick of his, this time swung in from the left, was met by Kevin Balanta (No. 8, Deportivo Cali), though his header glanced wide.
Otherwise, though at times Colombia seemed like they were on top, they didn’t have too many chances, with the pick of the remaining crop being the following: The 4th-minute 25-yard strike of Juan Ramírez (No. 21, Atlético Nacional) went a couple yards wide; in the 47th minute, Leyser Chaverra (No. 15, Universitario Popayán) came striding into the right side of the area before having his left-footed effort spilled low; lastly, in the 50th minute on the inside-left, Ramírez passed to Quiñones, who returned the ball to the former with a fine chest then kick-on-the-turn and he then got a touch to it just inside the area but was unable to convert goalwards.
Santiago Ascacibar (No. 5, Estudiantes de La Plata) quickly capitalised on a loose ball and instinctively played a finely-weighted pass to Marcelo Torres (No. 21, Boca Juniors); he, after a mere 19 seconds, took two touches to control and then superbly curl home for his fifth goal of the tournament. However, despite this, Torres was to be of little further threat and was withdrawn on the hour.
Overall, though there were many lulls and little consistency, Argentina’s leading threat was probably Tomás Conechny (No. 20, San Lorenzo). After just five minutes a throw from the right was chested to him on the edge of the area and he struck a left-footed half-volley just a yard or so over the bar. Reflecting Argentina’s lack of ambition throughout much of this game, his next moment of significance was not until the 71st minute. Here, perhaps frustrated at his team-mates, he just decided to strike a left-footed effort from 35 yards on the inside-left; it was hit well but went straight to the goalkeeper. Three minutes later, he played a minor role in a more testing chance as he nodded a Milton Valenzuela (No. 3, Newell’s Old Boys) ball into the path of striker Lautaro Martínez (No. 9, Racing Club). From just outside the area on the inside-left, Martínez let the ball run over to his right boot with which he struck a fine shot that was just about parried wide. However, though this was close, a far better chance would be created in stoppage-time: Ascacibar played an impressive diagonal ball towards the left inside the area which Conechny superbly controlled and then gained some space to put in a low pass to Martínez who tapped home for the win.
Aside from these moments in this somewhat topsy-turvy and often quiet game, Argentina’s other chances of note were, firstly, a 35th-minute shot from Brian Mansilla (No. 11, Racing Club) at an angle inside the area which had to be tipped over and, secondly the 83rd-minute strike of Nicolás Zalazar (No. 14, San Lorenzo) from 30 yards that had to be parried into the air before being caught.
Otherwise, Matchday 3 of the Hexagonal will be on 5 February 2017 and the games shall be Brazil vs Venezuela, Uruguay vs Colombia and Ecuador vs Argentina – expect to see another bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com.
To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter.