Argentina’s opening Group A game of the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup saw them dominate play yet get emphatically beaten by England. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the match and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-tracking…
(Source: Wikipedia – Check here for all other results, fixtures and standings)
Argentina 0-3 England
2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Group A, 20 May 2017 (YouTube)
Particularly in the early exchanges, Claudio Úbeda’s Argentina dominated possession and chances, yet ultimately found themselves on the receiving end of a hiding from their old rival, who picked up their nation’s first win at this tournament for twenty years.
In the first half, it often seemed to be a case not of “if” but “when” regarding Los Pibes attempts to convert their superior technique into at least one goal. Santiago Colombatto came closest with a 34th-minute header that glanced off the bar yet, just four minutes later, Argentina were to be taken aback by the opener scored very much against the run of play. This was a goal made on Merseyside as Everton’s Kieran Dowell crossed in from the right for his club team-mate Dominic Calvert-Lewin to head home.
After the break, though the boys in blue continued to see more of the ball, their control was to rapidly loosen. Indeed, things began to unravel further in the 52nd minute when the poor anticipation of at least two defenders led to Dowell’s ball upfield on the inside-right being taken into the area by Adam Armstrong. The forward, who this season has been scoring in the Championship for Barnsley on loan from Newcastle, hit a low shot past the near post of the out-of-sorts goalkeeper to double the lead. Upon the hour, Argentina made some attacking changes, yet 15 minutes later, any hope of a comeback was all-but-ended as one of these substitutes, star striker Lautaro Martínez, was red-carded for what appeared to be an elbow. At the death, three minutes into stoppage-time, the South Americans’ misery was completed as, after Calvert-Lewin was brought down by the goalkeeper, Chelsea’s Dominic Solanke stepped up to make it 3-0 from the spot.
Coach Úbeda made several changes from the side that was barely ten seconds away from not qualifying for this tournament. Though it’s debatable whether he really needed to make as many alterations as he did in the attacking positions, some of the fresh individuals brought into this area nevertheless had their moments.
Indeed, none more so than the deep-lying midfielder Santiago Colombatto (No. 15, Trapani, on loan from Cagliari). Displaying often admirable poise on the ball, he also wasn’t far off the target in the 21st minute when a left-footed free-kick from just outside the right edge of the area curled into the side-netting. 13 minutes later he came much closer when his head greeted a corner from fellow new recruit, the attacking-midfielder Exequiel Palacios (No. 8, River Plate), glancing it across goal against the crossbar. Colombatto also showed himself to be a provider of some potential, such as two minutes after the restart when his corner found centre-back Marcos Senesi (No. 6, River Plate). However, the latter, who also did not feature earlier this year at Ecuador 2017, really should have done better than head comfortably over from 10 or so yards.
Otherwise, Colombatto, as well as, to a lesser extent, Palacios, also sometimes tried to play incisive balls towards yet another new call-up, forward Ezequiel Ponce (No. 18, Granada, on loan from Roma). Particularly in the first half, he was a lively presence, often making runs, attempting to latch onto passes and crosses as well as attempting to fashion opportunities of his own making. Two of his more notable half-chances were his 25th-minute turn-and-left-footed-strike from the edge of the area, which was saved low at the near post, followed later by a 34th-minute right-footed shot from around 25-30 yards out, which went a few yards wide. In the second half, like his fellow team-mates, Ponce was less visible, but had a decent strike that went wide of the post five minutes after the interval, before later at the very end managing a strong header at the goalkeeper.
This latter opportunity was set up by a fine lofted ball from the left boot of Tomás Conechny (No. 10, San Lorenzo) who, somewhat surprisingly, started on the bench along with another attacking-midfielder who impressed in qualifying, Brian Mansilla (No. 11, Racing Club). The latter came on with barely quarter-of-an-hour left and had little opportunity to change the game, but Conechny’s arrival occurred on the hour-mark and he made more than enough contributions to suggest that he should be in the next line-up on Tuesday. Indeed, upon his arrival he sought to inject some urgency, in the 70th minute chipping one of his typically well-weighted balls from a set-piece towards the back post, which Lucas Rodríguez (No. 16, Estudiantes de La Plata) headed into the goalmouth, though this was just about cleared from almost underneath the crossbar. Conechny also had some attempts of his own and in the 86th minute came the closest to scoring for his side in the second half. Here, following a Mansilla corner, he picked up the ball just outside the area, before having to agonisingly watch on as his low left-footed effort rolled an inch or two wide of the post.
Another man who started on the bench was striker Lautaro Martínez (No. 9, Racing Club), one of the hottest properties in the tournament and whose five goals in qualifying are largely the reason Los Pibes managed to qualify in the first place. In his case, however, his absence from the line-up was likely due to the knock he received in the past week. Yet, given that he was red-carded with the aid of video technology for what was adjudged to be an elbow barely 15 minutes after he entered the fray on the hour-mark, all Argentines must now wish he hadn’t been risked. He will now miss Tuesday’s encounter and it will be interesting to see whether his absence will ensure another start for Marcelo Torres (No. 7, Boca Juniors), a striker who also scored five times in qualifying but who in this game was largely ineffectual out wide before being substituted off on the hour-mark.
Úbeda is not lacking in attacking talent but he really does need to fast figure out a system that incorporates his best players. Yet, despite all this tampering up the top of the park, it’s really at the back where Argentina’s problems lie. Indeed, once again, as they did three times in qualifying, they conceded three goals in one match. Defensive-midfielder and captain Santiago Ascacibar (No. 5, Estudiantes de La Plata) can not be blamed for any of these but onlookers who have never seen him perform at club level must be wondering what all the fuss is about. He may have a duty to help shield, inspire and communicate with those behind him but some of these players need to be able to help themselves first. Thus instead, if culprits are to be pinpointed, then this would implicate the poor anticipation and positioning of virtually all of the defence – particularly left-back Milton Valenzuela (No. 3, Newell’s Old Boys) and centre-back Senesi – as well as goalkeeper Franco Petroli (No. 1, River Plate). Given the frequency of these defensive issues, it is hard to see them being rectified within this tournament, so instead a rather heavy burden – and, perhaps, some resentment – is likely to be carried into each game by the attackers – whomever they shall be.
In the other Group A game played today, Guinea were defeated 3-0 by hosts South Korea, who will be Argentina’s next opponents on Tuesday 23 May 2017.
To keep up-to-date with the latest news on the South American nations at South Korea 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter and check back to Hispanospherical.com for match-by-match talent-tracking articles.