Category Archives: South American Youth Football

Uruguay 1-0 Saudi Arabia (Round of 16, 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, 31 May 2017)

Owing to a fearsome penalty strike, Uruguay came through their Round of 16 clash with Saudi Arabia at the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the match and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-tracking…

uruguaysaudiarabia

(Source: Wikipedia – Check here for all other results and fixtures)

Uruguay 1-0 Saudi Arabia

2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Round of 16, 31 May 2017 (YouTube)

It was not entirely comfortable, but Fabián Coito’s charges did just about enough to see off the threat posed by Saudi Arabia to book their place in the quarter-finals.

The South Americans saw the better of the early exchanges, with their phalanx of attackers combining well and causing concern – albeit, without actually troubling the opposition goalkeeper. However, as the first half wore on, the Middle Easterners were to enjoy more of the ball and notably provoked at least two scares. The first of these was a well-struck 40th-minute shot from Fahad Ayidh Al Rashidi, who had been found in some space on the left side within the area, which Santiago Mele blocked down low. The second was a 45th-minute effort from Ayman Al Khulaif outside the 18-yard rectangle which trickled across the goal and not too far wide of the post.

It briefly looked like an upset was not outside of the realms of possibility, though this perception was to change less than five minutes after the restart. Indeed, following a handball, a penalty was awarded and captain Nicolás De La Cruz emphatically made up for his failure to convert from 12 yards against Italy by blasting an unstoppable strike into the back of the net. From then onwards, the game was hardly blessed by goalmouth opportunities yet, though the solitary-goal margin was always a cause for slight concern, Uruguay nevertheless had the better of proceedings and ultimately saw out the win to progress.

Talent Tracking

uruguayflag Uruguay

Though he has struggled to find the kind of form that led to him being widely acclaimed as the most important player in CONMEBOL qualifying, Nicolás De La Cruz (No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay) must have been buoyed by this performance. Indeed, there was a welcome case of déjà vu for the captain as, mirroring events at Ecuador 2017 earlier this year, having missed an opening-day penalty he was to redeem himself and bolster his confidence with his second spot-kick attempt of the tournament, by striking this one home. He also won this opportunity himself, forcing a handball in the area and, overall, he had a decent outing, having an early free-kick comfortably saved as well as occasionally charging forward and looking to play in team-mates.

One minor piece of support he provided was a 25th-minute pass to the inside-left to Nicolás Schiappacasse (No. 9, Atlético Madrid Under-19s), who put the ball on his right and struck well, seeing his pacy low effort go just wide of the near post. As has often been the case, he again looked a threat though was unable to add to his one tournament goal. Though, through no fault of his own, some feel he should have done so when his stoppage-time strike from a fine José Luis Rodríguez (No. 4, Danubio) – who again had a good game – through-ball found the back of the net, yet was ruled out for a disputed offside.

Schiappacasse was one of several Uruguayans causing recurring problems for Saudi Arabia in the early stages. During this period, from a cross he set up Agustín Canobbio (No. 19, Fénix) yet, despite being in a promising position, the latter could not make proper contact with his header, which went well wide. Canobbio later put in a ball for Joaquín Ardaiz (No. 7, Danubio) that caused a mild fright at the back and also had a shot from range that went comfortably wide but, overall, Uruguayan attempts that actually hit the target were few and far between. Though they are rightly considered one of the tournament favourites, with just four goals in as many games, they will surely need to improve in the attacking department if they are to seriously challenge for the trophy.

Otherwise, slightly further back Federico Valverde (No. 16, Real Madrid Castilla) again impressed with his smart midfield play and occasional forays, even managing a curious swerved strike from over 35 yards that the goalkeeper stopped centrally. He and Rodrigo Bentancur (No. 20, Boca Juniors, transferring to Juventus in July) did a good job helping to protect and support the back four, though the latter will unfortunately miss the crucial next game, as he picked up his second yellow card of the tournament.

Lastly, though in the second half they did not have a great deal to do, the defence as well as goalkeeper Santiago Mele (No. 1, Fénix) also all had another solid game. Collectively, Uruguay have now gone a remarkable 360 minutes without conceding a goal.

That said, they are likely to be tested a lot more in their quarter-final encounter on Sunday 4 June 2017 against Portugal, who yesterday impressively defeated hosts South Korea 3-1 to progress.

To keep up-to-date with the latest news on the two remaining 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.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Venezuela 1-0 Japan (AET) (Round of 16, 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, 30 May 2017)

Venezuela’s Round of 16 clash with Japan at the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup took 120 minutes to decide but ultimately Rafael Dudamel’s heroic charges emerged victorious. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the match and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-tracking…

venezuelahapanresult

(Source: Wikipedia – Check here for all other results and fixtures)

Venezuela 1-0 Japan (AET)

2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Round of 16, 30 May 2017 (YouTube)

After negotiating their way through an additional thirty minutes of play, Rafael Dudamel’s men were finally able to make history by becoming the first ever Venezuelan side to reach the Quarter-finals of the Under-20 World Cup.

It was an often tense encounter, in which the burgundy boys were put under more pressure than in any of their preceding games. Indeed, despite having a respectable share of the ball in the opening exchanges, towards the end of the first half, it was Japan who started to edge proceedings. They nearly found the back of Wuilker Fariñez’s cobweb-filled net in the 29th minute when Ritsu Doan curled a fine free-kick over the wall, which crashed off the crossbar, rebounding for Yuto Iwasaki to screw a shot wide of the post.

Venezuela’s hitherto steely defence was rattled by moments such as this and their Asian opponents were to continue to look the likelier to score for at least the first quarter-hour of the second half. However, as the game wore on, despite the South Americans making no changes in regulation time – by contrast, Japan had made all three of theirs by the 76th minute – they appeared more intent on winning the game without resorting to penalties. Yeferson Soteldo and, in particular, Adalberto Peñaranda, began to cause more problems with their jinking runs yet when the 90 minutes were over, the game was still deadlocked at 0-0.

The first half of extra-time was a little cagey with Venezuela nevertheless maintaining the the upper hand, though when Peñaranda was withdrawn after 97 minutes one could be forgiven for thinking that spot-kicks were inevitable. However, from a Ronaldo Lucena corner in the 108th minute, captain Yangel Herrera was the man to strike a blow against fatalistic thoughts as he powerfully headed home to send his compatriots into raptures. Subsequently, Venezuela were able to see out this euphoric, record-breaking win and thus take another almighty leap in their increasingly plausible quest to transform from dark horses into genuine contenders for the tournament outright.

Talent Tracking

venezuelaflag Venezuela

Owing to Japan’s neat, quick-paced, passing moves, goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez (No. 1, Caracas FC) had to be on much higher alert than he was in any of his previous outings. Admittedly, he was somewhat fortunate not to lose his 100 per cent clean sheet record from Ritsu Doan’s 29th-minute free-kick against the crossbar which had him beat. However, just before this he had done well to anticipate a through-ball and clear before the opponent reached it and, later on in the 57th minute, he pulled off his best save of the tournament when, following a lovely Doan pass to Akito Takagi, he solidly blocked the latter’s low effort. When a penalty shootout appeared to be looming, it looked as if there was a chance that Fariñez would grab the headlines as both converter and stopper. Instead, however, the highly-rated youngster will just have to settle for the recognition that this was undoubtedly the most impressive of his four World Cup performances so far.

Good as Fariñez was though, in both this competition as well as qualifying, he’s rarely, if ever, had his goal bombarded by opponents and for this, he owes a debt of gratitude to the outfield rearguard. Indeed, much credit for the incredible 390 minutes Venezuela have gone without conceding a goal should go to the most consistent members of the back four. Namely, these would be right-back Ronald Hernández (No. 20, Zamora FC), who cleared danger effectively, made a notable recovery challenge and also caused some discomfort going forward, as well as the centre-back pairing of Williams Velásquez (No. 2, Estudiantes de Caracas, soon-to-be Udinese, on loan from Watford) and Nahuel Ferraresi (No. 4, Deportivo Táchira). Whilst they faced their most difficult test yet in the form of the roaming playmaker Doan, these two men did well in largely repelling what was thrown at them. Furthermore, having replaced Eduin Quero (No. 3, Deportivo Táchira) at left-back for the second consecutive game, José Hernández (No. 5, Caracas FC) can also feel pleased with himself. So too can coach Dudamel, whose admirable system appears to maintain its organisation despite at least two notable changes in its personnel being made since the qualifying stage.

On a related note, the two chaps in front of the defence once again earned plaudits for their support in halting opposition forays. From an attacking perspective, both were also to play crucial roles, with Ronaldo Lucena (No. 16, Zamora FC) again a regular threat from set-pieces. One of his more notable chipped efforts into the area within regulation time fell to Ronaldo Peña (No. 9, Las Palmas Atlético) in the 76th minute and, even if play was ultimately called back, the latter did force a solid goalkeeping block with his powerful strike. However, of course, Lucena’s most vital contribution occurred in the 108th minute, soon after one of his corners had been headed over from a very inviting position by a combination of Ferraresi and a defender. His subsequent inswinger reached the penalty spot and was brilliantly headed into the back of the net by his midfield partner-in-crime and all-round captain fantastic, Yangel Herrera (No. 8, New York City FC, on loan from Manchester City).

Before this goal, the likeliest outlet for a Venezuelan opener had seemed to be Adalberto Peñaranda (No. 7, Málaga, on loan from Watford). After just five minutes, he showed his brilliant capacity for dribbling as, from the left flank, he nutmegged one opponent and then bypassed another, before striking a low right-footed effort into the side-netting. A few more tricks were demonstrated throughout his 97 minutes on the field and he also caused some more discomfort amongst the Japanese defence in the 72nd minute when he hit a low cross-cum-shot across goal.

He had been played into this promising position by Yeferson Soteldo (No. 10, Huachipato, Chile) who actually hit a similar ball into the goalmouth later on in the 98th minute. The dimunitive dribbler, who has thus far in the tournament been somewhat overshadowed by Peñaranda, nevertheless had a decent game, often maintaining good possession with his glue-smeared boots and looking to make things happen.

That said, clear efforts on target were few and far between in this contest, something which Sergio Córdova (No. 19, Caracas FC) sought to rectify in the 68th minute when he hit a fine low strike from over 25 yards which the goalkeeper had to get down low to in order to parry out. Also, much earlier in the 19th minute, the tournament topscorer had another opportunity on goal, when he ran onto a through ball which he was able to nudge ahead of the goalkeeper, though this was nevertheless blocked.

Still, though the game wasn’t always pretty, the winning goal will certainly be a thing of beauty for bleary-eyed Venezuelans to marvel over during the upcoming days. Following these motivating and inspiring repeated viewings, expectations shall surely mount. Indeed, whilst a Quarter-final on Sunday 4 June 2017 against the winner of Thursday’s encounter between USA and New Zealand will certainly pose some challenges, it is currently hard for followers of La Vinotinto‘s youngsters to imagine who could conceivably stop them. After four wins and four clean sheets, who can blame them?

To keep up-to-date with the latest news on the two remaining 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.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Ecuador – Summary of Top Talents at the FIFA 2017 Under-20 World Cup

Following a brief tournament overview of Ecuador’s performance at the FIFA 2017 Under-20 World Cup, below are some summaries of several players worth keeping an eye on. As La Mini-Tri struggled to give the best account of themselves, those seeking more information on these individuals may wish to also take a look at their respective exploits in qualification as well as, perhaps, this site’s preview for the Under-20 World Cup.

cabezasestupinan

Bryan Cabezas celebrating with Pervis Estupiñán following the former’s second goal against the USA (GettyImages)

ecuadorflag

Ecuador

Tournament Overview

Seven minutes into their opener with the USA, Javier Rodríguez’s men were 2-0 up and looked to be on course to not only win the game but also do some serious head-turning at the tournament. However, they were pegged back and, despite regaining the lead, were thwarted at the death, gaining a solitary point in a 3-3 draw. They lost further ground in the subsequent encounter with Saudi Arabia, going down 2-1 and yet, despite entering their final game with their fate still in their hands, could only manage a drab 0-0 draw against Senegal. Thus, the team who began Group F all guns blazing ultimately suffered the ignominy of being the only side not to progress.

Overall, though the leakiness of their defence was again on display, La Mini-Tri did also show that they possess some strong and/or pacy attackers. However, while it should not be forgotten that simply qualifying for the World Cup is an impressive achievement in itself, the forwards and attacking-midfielders – particularly after that dream start against the USA – will surely go home feeling that things could have been quite different indeed.

GroupFandresults

(Group F table and results courtesy of Wikipedia; to read about and view highlights of each game, click here and scroll down)

Top Talents

Bryan Cabezas (Attacking-midfielder/Forward, No. 10, Atalanta)

As with the other Ecuadorian attackers, the former Independiente Del Valle man may feel he was unable to give a true demonstration of his abilities, though at least in his case he can say that he certainly had his moments. Indeed, he scored twice against the USA, the first involving some nice control and a rapid stepover, culminating with a rifled shot past the goalkeeper; the second, on the other hand, was a punishing low strike following some amateurish dilly-dallying from goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann. Along with the goals, he also impressed on his left flank, charging at defenders and putting in balls. He continued in this vein against Saudi Arabia yet, after he failed to convert from the spot at the end of the first half, his influence began to wain, both in this game as well as in the tournament as a whole. Nevertheless, having also scored five goals in qualifying, two from three games is not a bad haul and one can only hope he enjoys more domestic action next season after a year largely on the bench in Serie A.

Herlin Lino (Forward, No. 9, Deportivo Cuenca)

Aside from Cabezas, there were a number of other attackers vying for attention and, though some may disagree, it seemed to these eyes that Lino came away with most credit. Indeed, he played every minute of the tournament and scored his nation’s opening goal against USA, a strike into a virtually unguarded goal following a cutback. In this as well as the subsequent game against Saudi Arabia, he had other strikes on target and also helped set up at least one opportunity of note for a team-mate. However, perhaps most notably, in this second match he exhibited his remarkable propensity for winning penalties, with the one he gained for Cabezas coming off the back of three he impressively forced out of opponents in qualifying.

Pervis Estupiñán (Left-back, No. 6, Granada, on loan from Watford)

It was Estupiñán who picked up the loose ball helped on by Lino in the area against Saudi Arabia, which he struck against the post. However, overall, it really was a tournament to forget for the rampaging left-back as not only did he get forward far less than in qualifying – during which he scored an eye-catching four times – but he also provided more evidence that perhaps that defending lark isn’t really for him. Indeed, for every single one of the five goals his country conceded, he was in some way at least partially culpable, either by being bypassed, not closing down an opponent who put in a decisive ball and/or huffing back in vain unable to halt the inevitable. Despite this eyebrow-raising record, he is still a player to watch out for, but needs to muck in more at the back and/or ask to be fielded further up the park.

The Rest

Otherwise, there were several more players in the Ecuadorian ranks who showed glimpses of their potential, but were unable to play particularly decisive roles.

There was the captain Jordan Sierra (Midfielder, No. 15, Delfin), who got forward less than he did in qualifying, being instead more preoccupied with trying to halt opponents from making inroads centrally.

Joao Rojas (Midfielder, No. 17, Emelec), who impressed in the early stages of qualifying before being benched, was a substitute for the the first two tournament games. However, he did occasionally cause problems – it was he who closed down USA goalkeeper Klinsmann to hurry him into the error which led to Cabezas’ second goal – and thus he was rewarded with a start in the final game, where he had the best chance to score with a low shot from the edge of the area.

Rojas’ position on the right of midfield was initially occupied by Wilter Ayoví (Midfielder, No. 8, Independiente Del Valle), who was a lively presence in spells during qualifying, yet his World Cup only lasted 57 minutes of the opener plus a further five minutes of the final encounter.

The most notable moment from the pacy Washington Corozo (Forward, No. 7, Independiente Del Valle) – who started all three games – came after five minutes of the opener when he beat a man on the left before setting up Lino to make it 1-0.

Lastly, Jordy Caicedo (Forward, No. 19, Universidad Católica del Ecuador) got on the scoresheet against Saudi Arabia with a back post tap-in and also had other opportunities in that match. Having scored three times in qualifying as well as already netted several times at club level, it will be interesting to see where his career takes him but he’s certainly got some task on his hands if he is to emulate his more illustrious namesake.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Argentina – Summary of Top Talents at the FIFA 2017 Under-20 World Cup

Following a brief tournament overview of Argentina’s performance at the FIFA 2017 Under-20 World Cup, below are some summaries of several players worth keeping an eye on. As this was far from a memorable campaign for Los Pibes, those seeking more information on these individuals may wish to also take a look at their respective exploits in qualification as well as, perhaps, this site’s preview for the Under-20 World Cup.

colombatto

Surprise inclusion Santiago Colombatto in action against South Korea (GettyImages)

argentinaflag

Argentina

Tournament Overview

Once again, Los Pibes fell short on the global stage. Having scraped through qualification, manager Claudio Úbeda made several changes to the line-up for the opening clash with England and, for 30 minutes at least, it seemed as if his new-look side may just run riot. Alas, despite dominating possession, they conceded against the run of play and ultimately contrived to go down 3-0 in a somewhat peculiar defeat. They followed this up with a 2-1 loss against hosts South Korea, leaving their hopes of progression hanging by a thread. For the crunch game against Guinea, Úbeda finally started with all of his best attackers from qualifiying and this paid off as they performed a 5-0 demolition job. However, owing to results in other groups over the subsequent two days, they were narrowly denied one of the four best third-placed team berths and thus departed at the first stage.

Overall, though their goalkeeper and defence left much to be desired, they do possess several more attack-minded players of note, though whether any of these can ascend to the level demanded by this illustrious footballing nation, is another matter entirely.

Argentinagroup

(Group A table and results courtesy of Wikipedia; to read about and view highlights of each game, click here and scroll down)

Top Talents

Lautaro Martínez (Striker, No. 9, Racing Club)

The star striker was hurt in the week leading up to the opening game against England, which likely explains why he only made it onto the field for 15 minutes of this encounter. However, given his contribution consisted mainly of an elbow which saw him red-carded and suspended for the South Korea match, he must have wished that he had sat that one out. Indeed, the man who has been banging them in at club level and linked with, amongst others, Real Madrid, was therefore to have little more than one game to demonstrate to the world why, were it not for him, his country wouldn’t even have made the trip. Nevertheless, when he returned against Guinea he would go some way towards bolstering his reputation as he bagged two goals. The first of these was a sensational top-corner golazo on the turn from the edge of the area and the second a well-worked move with a team-mate from a set-piece which he fired home.

Tomás Conechny (Attacking-midfielder, No. 10, San Lorenzo)

Coach Úbeda appears to not be entirely convinced by Conechny – or is unsure how to integrate him into his similarly rotating plans – because, as with qualifying, Argentina’s topscorer at the Sudamericano Sub-17 two years ago started the tournament on the bench. Yet, when he emerged after 60 minutes in the opener with England, he again proved himself to be one of the liveliest players in the squad; for this, he was rewarded with starts against South Korea as well as Guinea. Thus, from both open play as well as set-pieces, in these two games he also came across as one of the likeliest scorers and/or providers. Ultimately, the San Lorenzo attacker – who has so far only been a substitute at club level – had to settle with just the one assist, a quick pass from a free-kick which bamboozled the unsuspecting Guinea defence and was finished off by Martínez.

He may not have been able to put in a string of vintage performances but he was at least afforded more opportunities than another impressive attacker from the qualifiers, Brian Mansilla (Attacking-midfielder, No. 11, Racing Club). Indeed, following on from two substitute appearances, the man Ajax put a considerable bid in for earlier this year was granted a solitary start against Guinea and gained an assist from a cross.

Santiago Colombatto (Midfielder, No. 15, Trapani, on loan from Cagliari)

Perhaps the most positive aspect of Argentina’s campaign was the emergence of this deep-lying playmaker. He did not participate in the qualifying tournament but nevertheless possesses respectable club experience, having played consistently in Italy’s Serie B this past season. He stood out from the off against England, heading against the crossbar and teeing up team-mates. His most telling Group A contribution occurred in the South Korea game when, from near the halfway line, he played a delightful first-time ball which was rapidly finished off to halve the deficit. In the final encounter against Guinea, he was also responsible for another assist, this time a low ball into the area which Martínez dummied over before a team-mate struck home.

Marcelo Torres (Striker, No. 7, Boca Juniors)

The man Colombatto found with both of these passes was Torres who, with few headlines or hype, managed to maintain his goalscoring reputation, netting two to add to the five that he bagged in seven qualifying games. Having been subbed off on both of his starts as well as coming on from the bench against South Korea – with his goal arriving after being on the field for less than five minutes – he doesn’t appear to have as much backing as Martínez. Indeed, he also played, as well as had to contest a place, with Ezequiel Ponce (Striker, No. 18, Granada, on loan from Roma), who wasn’t part of the qualification team and also failed to get on the scoresheet, though did look particularly alert against England.

Santiago Ascacibar (Defensive-midfielder, No. 5, Estudiantes de La Plata)

Lastly, the captain Ascacibar merits comment more because of the admiration he receives from the likes of Diego Simeone than his actual performances in South Korea. That is not to say that they were bad but, owing to his easy-to-overlook role and, in particular, the porousness and poor positioning of those behind him in the rearguard, it seems a lot harder for him to stand out at national level than it has been in the domestic league where he is a regular. Indeed, the errors of the goalkeeper and back four in the first two games put Los Pibes at a severe disadvantage and there is only so much that their midfield-roamer with the armband can do to rally the troops. Still, plenty in the game more qualified than your humble observer will tell you he is going places so, like most Argentines, let’s just agree to forget about this collective tournament showing and wait and see.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Senegal 0-0 Ecuador (Group F, 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, 28 May 2017)

Ecuador’s third and final Group F game of the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup ended in a disappointing stalemate which has eliminated them from the competition. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the match and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-tracking…

groupf3

(Source: Wikipedia – Check here for all other results, fixtures and standings)

Senegal 0-0 Ecuador

2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Group F, 28 May 2017 (YouTube)

In a game low on opportunities, Javier Rodríguez’s men were unable to find a way past their Senegalese opponents and will now be on an early flight back home.

The match was hardly blessed with talking points as, with their own qualification hopes always at the forefront of their minds, the Africans were somewhat wary of committing themselves wholeheartedly to forward forays.

That said, Senegal – who were to finish with ten men following a late red card in stoppage-time – did actually break the deadlock ten minutes in the second half – or so they thought. However, following some consultation amongst the officials, it was adjudged that the ball hovering on the goal-line had been kicked out of at least one – if not both – of goalkeeper José Cevallos’ hands and thus this stabbed effort was ruled out.

Although Ecuador showed some intent in the game, aside from a Joao Rojas shot that could well have bypassed the goalkeeper had it a little more direction, they were similarly unable to create many clear sights of goal. Thus, despite such a promising start to the tournament, they bow out, with their three Group F rivals instead progressing.

Talent Tracking

ecuadorflag Ecuador

As with Uruguay’s 0-0 draw yesterday, mercy shall be shown on the reader – not to mention oneself – by not spending undue time ruminating on this performance. Indeed, Ecuador needed a win but, despite having a fair few attackers at their disposal capable of causing problems, Senegal will surely consider this a relatively solid defensive display from their rearguard.

Having been a substitute in the opening two games, Joao Rojas (No. 17, Emelec) was granted a start here. He was one of his side’s more conspicuous attackers and had their best chance, a 79th-minute right-footed effort from the edge of the area, which the goalkeeper did well to get down to parry. Otherwise, he also had a low shot early on following a fine pass from deep by Washington Corozo (No. 7, Independiente Del Valle) – who, in turn, was to show some quick bursts of pace – though this was saved with a greater degree of comfort.

The pickings were indeed rather slim for Ecuador, with their other attempts barely worth mentioning, but here goes: In the 48th minute, Bryan Cabezas (No. 10, Atalanta) fired a low left-footed cross into the area which hit the goalkeeper’s gloves before being cleared. Three minutes later, the man this evaded in the centre, Herlin Lino (No. 9, Deportivo Cuenca), won some space for himself on the inside-right, but his shot was dealt with relatively easily. Much later on at the death, substitute Jordy Caicedo (No. 19, Universidad Católica del Ecuador) hit a shot that elicited an even greater amount of gratitute from the man with the gloves.

Given the clean sheet, the goalkeeper, some of the defence and the two holding midfielders may deserve some credit. However, due to the circumstances which meant that their opponents were somewhat hesitant at times to get forward, it would perhaps be best not to over-egg this particular aspect of the Ecuadorian performance.

Thus, though they certainly have some talented players in their rank, who will be disappointed not to have qualified from the group stage after such a sensational start to the tournament which saw them 2-0 up against the USA in 7 minutes, Ecuador have succumbed at the first hurdle.

In the other Group F game played today, USA and Saudi Arabia drew 1-1, a result which saw both teams progress (along with Senegal) and also dashed Argentina’s hopes of scraping through as one of the four best third-placed teams. Thus, it is left to Uruguay and Venezuela to carry the torch for CONMEBOL in the knock-out stage.

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.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

 

Uruguay 0-0 South Africa (Group F, 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, 27 May 2017)

Uruguay’s third and final Group D game of the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup saw them uncomfortably draw 0-0 with a decent South Africa side. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the match and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-tracking…

groupd3

(Source: Wikipedia – Check here for all other results, fixtures and standings)

Uruguay 0-0 South Africa

2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Group D, 27 May 2017 (YouTube)

A somewhat lacklustre stalemate was enough for Uruguay to confirm themselves as winners of Group D.

At kick-off, South Africa were already virtually eliminated – that, is barring a high win plus some favourable results elsewhere – but Fabián Coito’s men struggled to assert their supposed superiority. Indeed, though they had a chance or two in the first half it was a largely quiet affair and, soon after the break, their opponents were to look the more likely to score. Luther Singh, in particular, stood out, hitting the crossbar with his right boot from a deep position on the left before having another effort from the same area tipped over soon afterwards. South Africa had other chances to score though, in the latter stages, so did the South Americans, with Nicolás Schiappacasse notably guilty of some eyebrow-raising misses.

Nevertheless, upon the final whistle, the Uruguayans were officialy proclaimed as winners of Group D and, irrespective of today’s performance, will go into the knock-out stage as one of the favourites to lift the trophy.

Talent Tracking

uruguayflag Uruguay

Perhaps it is best not to expend too much thought on this outing, given that Coito’s men were certainly not charging around in top gear. This was possibly owing to the strains of the tightly scheduled group stage as well as the knowledge of their qualification having already been accomplished.

Some changes from the side that beat Japan 2-0 were made, including Matías Viña (No. 17, Nacional) coming in for club team-mate Agustín Rogel (No. 18, Nacional) at centre-back. It is unlikely that this alteration was the sole cause but, despite impressively keeping a third consecutive clean sheet, the back four were to have more than a few hairy moments in this game, conceding space as well as several opportunities.

That said, the right-back, José Luis Rodríguez (No. 4, Danubio), did nevertheless maintain his propensity for admirable attacking play when, in the 36th minute, he supplied Uruguay’s best chance of the first half, knocking in a sublime curled ball from the right.

However, the man whose head this greeted, Nicolás Schiappacasse (No. 9, Atlético Madrid Under-19s), was unable to direct his effort goalwards, as he attempted to nod around the onrushing goalkeeper but instead watched the ball trickle wide. This was to be the first of a few opportunities that the 19-year-old was to squander. The second came in the 74th minute when he bypassed a player in the centre, had a clear sight of goal, yet whacked his shot slightly over. Several minutes later, he was similarly guilty when, following a corner, he ran into a promising position to have a free header in the centre, yet ended up putting his effort wide.

He will not wish to recall this game in a hurry and, for the Uruguayan attack as a whole, it was a far from memorable encounter, with their only other attempt of note being a strike from Agustín Canobbio (No. 19, Fénix) which, from an angle, went across goal and wide.

Still, with seven points, they progress as table-toppers and will regroup for their second round encounter, which shall be played on Wednesday 31 May 2017 against as-yet-unknown opponents. Following the conclusion of the group stage tomorrow, they shall know who precisely shall be next on their gauntlet.

In the other Group D game played today, Italy and Japan drew 2-2 and will both qualify along with Uruguay.

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.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Guinea 0-5 Argentina (Group A, 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, 26 May 2017)

Argentina’s third and final Group A game of the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup saw them inflict a heavy defeat upon the now-eliminated Guinea, though they will need to wait before discovering whether this was enough to progress. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the match and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-tracking…

GroupA3

(Source: Wikipedia – Check here for all other results, fixtures and standings)

Guinea 0-5 Argentina

2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Group A, 26 May 2017 (YouTube)

Argentina at last found their shooting boots as they routed their African opponents in a game they needed to win by a large margin in order to boost their hopes of advancing out of their group.

With the strongest line-up Claudio Úbeda has fielded thus far in the tournament, Los Pibes dominated proceedings from the off and, following some close shaves, finally got off the mark in the 33rd minute when Marcelo Torres tapped home Santiago Colombatto’s low cross. Ten minutes later, it was 2-0 as Lautaro Martínez announced his return in sensational fashion, turning from the edge of the area to fire a belting strike into the top corner.

Five minutes after the restart, Federico Zaracho made it three, heading in Brian Mansilla’s cross from the left. The following goal on 74 minutes also required a bonce, this time that of Marcos Senesi, who powerfully nodded home a free-kick from Exequiel Palacios. Subsequently, the spanking was capped off five minutes later when Martínez notched his second after Tomás Conechny played a disguised quick free-kick to him and he rapidly struck home into the opposite corner.

Thus, Argentina finally got their tournament underway but, with four other groups yet to be decided, will this prove to be too late for them to salvage one of the four best third-placed team berths?

Talent Tracking

argentinaflag Argentina

Well, well, Claudio Úbeda finally selects in the line-up all four of the most eye-catching attackers from the qualifiers and quelle surprise, they admonish a beating.

He had Lautaro Martínez (No. 9, Racing Club) back from suspension and the widely-touted striker certainly made up for lost time. The first of his two strikes was a goal of the tournament contender which came as he received a pass on the edge of the area, took a touch, then rapidly turned to smash an unstoppable effort into the top right-hand corner. Before this, he had looked alert from the off, playing a role in the first goal for which he dummied over the ball in the centre; overall, he was also to have a few other shots of his own. One of these was the second goal, a rather neat set-piece move which he was attentive to, as he latched onto a short ball that surprised the unsuspecting defence; he thus quickly turned to blast a solid strike into the corner. If, as this writer suspects, Argentina are to scrape through to the next round, they really can’t do without their star man.

The man who played this free-kick pass – which drew comparisons to the exquisite Verón-Zanetti move against England at World Cup ’98 – was Tomás Conechny (No. 10, San Lorenzo), a man who, if he hasn’t finally convinced his manager that he deserves to start every single game, then something has gone awry. Indeed, he always appears to have bundles of energy and intent, regularly looking to either make things happen or force an opponent into an error. As well as his assist, early on in the first half he also combined a few times with Santiago Colombatto (No. 15, Trapani, on loan from Cagliari) – the one revelation from this campaign who wasn’t also part of the qualifying phase – such as when the former found the head of the latter from a corner which the Serie B man then flicked on at the near post, causing a hesitant clearance from the goalmouth.

Their most notable link-up, however, was on the opening goal when Conechny fed a pass to the left inside the area which found Colombatto who, in turn, hit a low ball across the goal which Martínez intelligently evaded, leaving Marcelo Torres (No. 7, Boca Juniors) to fire home for his second tournament goal. Previously, Torres was also not far off scoring on at least two occasions earlier in the match. First of all, when Martínez’s shot was parried and the Boca man nearly got to the rebound, as well as not long afterwards when he headed a cross against the underside of the crossbar, which was then put in by a mixture of his boot and Colombatto’s head. However, the play had already been called back for offside – not that this whistle could prevent Colombatto from requiring bandaging following the contact made by Torres’ boot.

Torres, like Martínez, also scored five goals in qualifying and it was encouraging to see the pair both on the scoresheet, as the experiment with Ezequiel Ponce (No. 18, Granada, on loan from Roma) – who came on here for the last 23 minutes – had fallen somewhat short in the two previous matches.

The fourth and final top attacker from qualifying who was granted a start here – having, in his case, had to settle for cameos from the bench in the last two encounters – was Brian Mansilla (No. 11, Racing Club). Here, he went some way towards getting himself into Úbeda’s future line-up plans as he crossed in from the left for club team-mate Federico Zaracho (No. 19, Racing Club) to head home for the third.

The other goal, the fourth, came from a free-kick by Exequiel Palacios (No. 8, River Plate) who dinked in a good ball for centre-back Marcos Senesi (No. 6, River Plate) to head home with force.

Regarding the action at the other end, there wasn’t a great deal for Argentina to be concerned about. Certainly, Guinea had a few attempts, particularly in the latter stages when the South Americans had the game well in the bag, but there was nothing Úbeda will be losing sleep over any time soon. That said, though it is difficult to say off the back of just this one performance, it was good that he made some changes at the back, namely playing a back three and dropping the woeful full-backs Gonzalo Montiel (No. 4, River Plate) and, especially, Milton Valenzuela (No. 3, Newell’s Old Boys).

Time will tell whether these changes will be maintained and reap future dividends. Or will it? After all, though the Argentines went some way to improving their goal difference, we still won’t know until Sunday whether or not they have qualified for the knock-out stage. The permutations are too innumerable to go into here but those who wish to contemplate every last one of them can do so here.

In the other Group A game played today, England beat hosts South Korea 1-0 and thus, with the Three Lions having topped the table, both nations shall participate in the next round.

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.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical