Tag Archives: Argentina 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20

Argentina – Top Talents at the 2017 Under-20 South American Youth Championship

The 2017 Under-20 South American Youth Championship took place in Ecuador from 18 January until 11 February. @DarrenSpherical watched all 35 games, writing reports for each encounter that detailed all the significant moments by the most talented players that were spotted. This article focuses on the most notable starlets found in the ranks of Under-20 World Cup qualifiers Argentina, who finished 4th in the final group stage (also known as the Hexagonal), having initially qualified 2nd from Group B. Before browsing below, it may be advisable to have a look at the final standings, results and goalscorers here and/or read the main reference guide published on this website, which features details on dozens of players, with every one of the ten participating nations represented. 

(All photographs are credited to GettyImages)

argentinaflag Argentina

Tournament Summary

With just one win and three draws in the opening group stage, Claudio Úbeda’s men may not have entirely convinced, but given the attacking talent in their ranks (highest scorers at that point), fans held out hope that they were saving their best for the Hexagonal. However, three games in to the final stage, having endured two comprehensive 3-0 defeats – against first, Uruguay and then two games later, Ecuador – and possessing just three points, things looked bleak. In their following encounter with Brazil, they were ten seconds away from being eliminated before scoring their last-gasp equaliser; subsequently, they beat Venezuela and Brazil’s failure to beat Colombia meant that somehow they sneaked the last qualification spot.

To view highlights as well as read more about how Argentina got on and who stood out in each game, click here

Top Two Talents

lautaromartinez

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

Had he not scored twice in his final game, it’s debatable whether Lautaro Martínez would be selected in many observers’ Tournament Top Three, but taking into account his overall contribution to the cause, it’s difficult to deny him his spot.

Indeed, Argentina owe their World Cup qualification to him as not only did he end up as joint top-scorer with five in nine starts, but virtually all his goals were astoundingly vital. His first, in the opening game against Peru, was a fine last-minute strike into the corner to save Argentina’s blushes and salvage a point; subsequently however, his stature dropped as he went four games without finding the net and was somewhat overshadowed by his strike-partner Marcelo Torres. Yet, when it mattered most in the Hexagonal he displayed awe-inspiring stamina and drive to score four further goals that effectively won the points to inch Argentina through. As with the Peru goal, two of these came at the death: a cool tap-in to win the game against Colombia and, most significantly, a headed equaliser to make it 2-2 in the penultimate match against Brazil with only seconds remaining – without this, they would have gone out. Subsequently, a big win by at least five goals in the final game against Venezuela seemed the likeliest way for Argentina to progress and Martínez certainly played his part in giving his team-mates hope, as he scored twice in the opening 45 minutes: the first of these was a textbook finish following a Torres pass and the second was a surprise, looping header. Ultimately, the match may have only ended 2-0 but given Brazil’s 0-0 draw with Colombia, it proved to be enough; with the anxiety released, Martínez’s astonishing role could be fully appreciated.

Otherwise, the Racing striker set up the fifth goal against Bolivia with a cross and, several times throughout the tournament, also further displayed his eye for goal, forcing parries with testing strikes from the edge of the area. Having already featured at club level for Racing, he has been on the radar of European clubs since long before the tournament began: Valencia and Arsenal are reportedly interested, though Real Madrid appear to have come closest to acquiring his services, with a loan move having been discussed.

tomasconechny

Tomás Conechny (Attacking-midfielder, No. 20, San Lorenzo)

Five-goal Marcelo Torres lost out on being selected as one of Argentina’s top two prospects due to little more than a coin toss, but it’s difficult to deny that 18-year-old playmaker Tomás Conechny deserves some high recognition. Not only was he involved in five goals, but three of his four assists were absolutely crucial, coming towards the very end of matches and winning points for Los Pibes. Indeed, he came on as a 70th minute substitute in the second Group B game against Uruguay and superbly crossed in for two headed goals, the latter securing a 3-3 draw at the death. Later in the Hexagonal stage, he set up Martínez for two vital goals, the first a low ball into the goalmouth following some nice footwork which gave Argentina a 2-1 win over Colombia and the second was a fine cross for the header that nabbed a 2-2 draw against Brazil, heart-stoppingly keeping them in the competition.

Earlier on in the third Group B game against Bolivia, he also scored a goal, possibly Argentina’s best: he cut onto his left on the inside-right and struck home a fine effort from just outside the area. This was actually his first start of the tournament; overall, he began four matches and was subbed on a further four times, statistics which surely make the number of his contributions to goals all the more impressive.

Though he is billed by various sources as a striker, he was definitely playing behind the forward line here. However, he can certainly find the back of the net as indeed he did five times in seven games at 2015’s Sudamericano Sub-17 tournament, an achievement he celebrated on his birthday by falling 10 feet out of his hotel window whilst playing FIFA 15. Something of a child prodigy who has been on the radar of scouts at least since that particular competition, he has spoken of his desire to play in England, ideally for Liverpool or Arsenal – based on his consistent success at youth level, one would not bet against this. Currently attached to San Lorenzo, he has hardly played at club level, but expect that to change in the upcoming year.

argentinaflag More Argentine Talents

Fans of Marcelo Torres (No. 21, Boca Juniors) can rightly feel aggrieved that he has not been chosen as one of the two stand-out Argentines; given his nation’s recent embarrassment of riches in the striker department, his performances sometimes suggested that he may be another crack off the assembly line. Indeed, for much of the tournament, the previously little-known striker turned many heads and actually looked to be on course to be Los Pibes’ stand-out player. Like the greater-hyped Martínez, he scored five goals, though these came within the first six games (and four were in the first phase), before his strike-partner returned to prominence with four goals in the final four matches. However, overall, Torres played two fewer games so can at least claim a superior goals-per-minute ratio and, given the calibre of some of his finishes, his tally can not be casually overlooked.

Indeed, he opened his account with two goals in a 3-3 draw against eventual winners Uruguay in Group B, with the first comparable to Martínez’s against Peru: he exquisitely controlled a ball on the left inside the area, before nudging it past a defender and brilliantly striking home. His second in the subsequent half came as he rose in exemplary fashion to power home a bullet-header. The following game against an admittedly poor Bolivia yielded another brace: the first a no-frills header and the second a tap-in following a goalkeeping spill. If they were not as eye-grabbing, he certainly got viewers’ attention in the second Hexagonal game when, after a mere 19 seconds against Colombia, he scored his fifth and final tournament goal; this too was a fine finish, as he received a pass and took a couple of touches before superbly curling home.

Thus, he can be rather deadly and, following that game, he didn’t entirely drift out of focus, as he also managed to gain an assist for Martínez’s opener against Venezuela (note: he was also officially given another assist for Conechny’s goal against Bolivia but those who saw that strjke know that it was all the work of the playmaker). That said, though he often appeared committed to causing trouble for defenders, aside from only scoring once in the Hexagonal, perhaps the main criticism of him is that he did go a little quiet in some games.

Nevertheless, five goals and an assist in just seven games certainly can’t be dismissed. He may have never made a first-team appearance for Boca Juniors but after this tournament it shouldn’t be long before he sees some competitive club action, whether at La Bombonera or elsewhere.


Playing in a similar position as Conechny and also impressing, albeit to a somewhat lesser degree, Brian Mansilla (No. 11, Racing Club) found himself on the radar of a European club, who must have appreciated his two goals and an assist from nine straight starts. Indeed, he was the subject of a considerable bid from Ajax during the tournament which his club turned down. Particularly in the first game with Peru, they may well have also enjoyed his ability to pace his way past opponents and move play into dangerous areas, especially when he drove through two players before setting up Martínez for the equaliser. The following game against Uruguay showcased his tendency to shoot no matter how unpromising the position may be, clipping the bar with one effort. Subsequently in the rout against Bolivia, he capitalised on a defensive error to score with a textbook left-footed strike into the corner and then saw another shot of his spilled to Torres, who tapped home. His second goal of the tournament came in the Hexagonal draw with Brazil as he instinctively knocked home a flick-on from a corner to equalise in the first half. Thus far, most of his league appearances have come in a loan spell at Quilmes (3 goals in 14 games, only 5 of which were starts), but given Racing clearly consider him an asset, perhaps he’ll soon be appearing more regularly at El Cilindro.


Sticking briefly with the attacking-midfielders, from his seven appearances (four starts), Lucas Rodríguez (No. 7, Estudiantes de La Plata) showed glimpses of his potential. He powerfully headed home to score from a Martínez cross against Bolivia and was also responsible for the corner that was knocked on and then in by Mansilla for the first goal against Brazil; at the end of the first half in that game, he was also close to registering an official assist with his fine cross on a breakaway, but Mansilla narrowly missed the target. Ultimately, he perhaps suffered from playing in a rather competitive area, but given that he has already featured in over 40 games for an impressive Estudiantes de La Plata side, he can feel more confident than most regarding his club future.


A quick mention for Ezequiel Barco (No. 10, Independiente), a 17-year-old attacking-midfielder who was adorned with a rather coveted shirt number. Like Rodríguez, he had a reduced role, with his two starts (from eight appearances) actually coming in the opening two games. It’s quite possible that his limited game-time was due to the emergence of his replacement in the second Group B match against Uruguay: Conechny. Nevertheless, though he may have not scored or assisted in this tournament, given his age and his occasional determination to drive forward and strike from both open play as well as set-pieces, he could be one worth keeping an eye on. He’s already made nearly 20 appearances in all competitions for Independiente and could well turn up again at this tournament in 2019.


Briefly moving further back on the field, defensive-midfielder and captain Santiago Ascacibar (No. 5, Estudiantes de La Plata) came into the tournament with some fanfare, already being a regular at club level and having received praise from some notable ex-pros. Comparisons to Javier Mascherano are unsurprising but this tournament can’t really be said to have done much for the profile of Ascacibar. After all, he was at the heart of a defensive system that turned out to be the joint-leakiest in the competition (14 goals conceded), with particular lowlights including letting in three against Uruguay (twice, 3-3 and 3-0) as well as once against Ecuador (3-0). Having also played last year in the Olympic side that was knocked out in the group stage, he said ahead of the final game against Venezuela that preparation for both tournaments had been inadequate – a widespread opinion that his fans at club level would doubtless agree with. Nevertheless, several times, he was at least able to display some attacking ability, taking some shots from distance; mostly notably, he played a superbly well-weighted diagonal ball to set up Torres’ lightning-quick goal against Colombia and also found Conechny late on with a similar ball, from which the San Lorenzo youngster slid to Martínez for the winner.


Given the defensive shortcomings, one hesitates to offer any praise to those involved in the back four. From an attacking perspective at least, left-back  Milton Valenzuela (No. 3, Newell’s Old Boys) regularly put in some good crosses but no team-mate ever made the right connection. Right-back Nahuel Molina (No. 4, Boca Juniors) perhaps emerged with more credit and can at least buck-passingly point out that he was not involved with the 3-0 hiding from Uruguay and, furthermore, was only substituted on against Ecuador when Los Pibes were already 3-0 down. Up the other end, he also gained two assists, first with a fine long range ball which found Torres who scored in the first half of the 3-3 draw with Uruguay and, in the subsequent 5-1 win over Bolivia, when his ball again reached Torres, who nodded home for the opener.


If you would like to read about the best talents from the other nations, then click on the following links: UruguayEcuador, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia The Best of the Early Departees (Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia & Peru). All of this information is also contained in this mammoth Reference Guide.  

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Argentina 2-0 Venezuela (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 5, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 11 February 2017)

The first game which took place on the final Hexagonal Matchday of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw Argentina face Venezuela. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

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(Source: Wikipedia)

Argentina 2-0 Venezuela

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 11 February 2017 (YouTube)

Venezuela came into this final encounter knowing that a win could put them in with an outside shout of claiming the title, whereas avoiding a defeat by five goals would at least confirm their World Cup qualification. For Argentina, a five-goal hammering would ensure their progress, but a win by anything less would leave them at the mercy of subsequent events – and so it proved. Indeed, in a game in which Los Pibes dominated from the start, it nevertheless looked as if they may be outright frustrated by the best overall defence in the competition. That is, until Lautaro Martínez scored twice in quick succession at the end of the first half; his first came after he took a pass in his stride and struck home and his second was an opportunistic looping header from a long ball. Afterwards, with Venezuela shaken, Argentina’s objective seemed plausible. However, though after the break they enjoyed the majority of the attacks and forced some fine saves from opposition goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez, the clock gradually ran out on the white-and-blue boys. When the final whistle was blown, they looked as if they felt the seemingly inevitable would send them packing, yet just over two hours later, fear was turned to elation as Brazil failed to beat Colombia, gifting Argentina the fourth and final World Cup berth. By contrast, Venezuela, though perhaps not capping off an otherwise memorable tournament in the ideal manner, greeted the end of the match with unbridled joy as they will be travelling to the Under-20 World Cup for the first time since 2009.

Talent Spotting

argentinaflag Argentina

He appears to only score vitally crucial goals but his team-mates will long be grateful that he got another two here. In doing so, with a tournament total of five goals Lautaro Martínez (No. 9, Racing Club) helped elevate himself into a position where he can be justifiably proclaimed one of the top players of the past 25 days. The opener against Venezuela came after 43 minutes when he received a pass from the right from strike-partner Marcelo Torres (No. 21, Boca Juniors); with two good touches, Martínez took the ball into the area before firing low across goal into the back of the net. Barely a few minutes later, Martínez got his second as a long ball from Joaquín Pereyra (No. 18, Rosario Central) surprisingly went over the head of a defender; immediately behind him on the edge of the area, Martínez looped a header which caught goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez off-guard and went over him to make it 2-0. With these two goals, Argentina suddenly looked as if they could go on a rampage, but alas, they were to be thwarted, with the closest Martínez coming to getting a hat-trick actually occurring straight after his second, when he blazed a knock-back over. He did also have another chance much later on in the 79th-minute when he turned and struck from the edge of the area, but his shot also went well over.

Otherwise, though Los Pibes took to this game with an intent rarely seen in recent days, no other player really had a game worth salivating over, though some players did nevertheless try to make things happen. These were Argentina’s other notable forward forays:

In the eighth minute, Pereyra had a weak shot from over 25 yards out which went wide; more substantially in the 13th minute, following a hanging cross over to the right side of the area, Lucas Rodríguez (No. 7, Estudiantes de La Plata) stabbed an effort that clipped the outside of the post and went behind – though goalkeeper Fariñez had this covered. In the 28th minute, Rodríguez had another half-chance though this strike from distance went comfortably wide; a couple of minutes a later, a slightly better effort came from 30 yards on the inside-right from Federico Zaracho (No. 19, Racing Club), which bounced awkwardly in front of Fariñez who nevertheless blocked. A greater opportunity occurred shortly afterwards when Martínez returned a one-two to Rodríguez just inside the area, though just before the latter could hit the trigger, a defender crucially intervened for a corner. Then, just before Martínez opened the scoring as well as straight after the break, Pereyra got a couple more shots in, with the second a much better attempt, though both of these went wide of the post.

Otherwise, Argentina’s best chances to extend their lead in this half all occurred within a minute or so of each other. Indeed, in the 56th minute, Tomás Conechny (No. 20, San Lorenzo) received a dinked ball in space on the left edge of the area and fired a shot that was only marginally deflected over. From Conechny’s subsequent corner, fellow substitute Ezequiel Barco (No. 10, Independiente) connected with a strong header that was well-parried at close range; soon after, a shot was fired in low from the edge of the area that again required a fine save, with the rebound being narrowly diverted from the path of Torres. Subsequently, Argentina gradually had to accept that their fate would be in the hands of others, with a stoppage-time right-footed strike from Santiago Ascacibar (No. 5, Estudiantes de La Plata) that swerved wide some 30 yards out proving to be their very last throw of the dice.

They thus greeted the final whistle with apprehension, though after they sat through the following 0-0 draw between rivals Brazil and bottom-boys Colombia, their faces became pictures of joy and relief. Despite their inconsistent campaign, they have squeaked through in fourth and shall be off to South Korea in May for the World Cup, a tournament that they have won a record six times.

venezuelaflag Venezuela

Rafael Dudamel’s men came into the game simply needing to avoid a heavy loss to guarantee World Cup qualification and played accordingly. Indeed, perhaps it was partly due to Argentina’s greater urgency for goals, but Venezuela were on the back-foot for much of this game.

For the first 42 minutes, despite their lack of adventure, they did a good job of frustrating their opponents; Yangel Herrera (No. 8, Manchester City) put in a notable last-ditch challenge in the fourth minute and the defence collectively forced Argentina into long-range attempts and half-chances. However, they were rocked by two goals at the end of the first half and looked vulnerable to concede more afterwards.

Yet, though the defenders deserve plaudits for regaining their composure and not succumbing to an avalanche of goals, goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez (No. 1, Caracas FC) in particular is worthy of recognition for some crucial saves. Indeed, though he was perhaps unfortunately placed for the second goal due to anticipating his defender to head away, he otherwise looked alert throughout the game and his shot-stopping abilities were called into action in the 57th minute. Indeed, he first pulled off a close-range parry from Barco’s header and not long afterwards did well to see a shot from the edge of the area come through a cluster of players, which he blocked low.

From an attacking perspective, aside from one or two harmless efforts from Ronaldo Peña (No. 9, Las Palmas, Spain), Venezuela were not much of a threat. Their best and only real chance came from Yeferson Soteldo (No. 10, Huachipato, Chile) whose 53rd-minute free-kick clipped the top of the crossbar; otherwise, to a decreased degree, the diminutive dribbler showed some nice footwork and took some other set-pieces which came to nothing.

Nevertheless, as the second half wore on, it became increasingly clear that Venezuela were on their way to their first Under-20 World Cup since 2009 – elation thus greeted the final whistle on the pitch and back home. Eight years ago, Salomón Rondón was part of that impressive squad who progressed on home soil, yet though a handful of his team-mates have since gone on to earn senior caps, none could be said to have also become integral to the national side. Thus, though three individuals in this year’s rather outstanding crop have repeatedly stood out (Herrera, Soteldo and Fariñez) and several others have also caught the eye, one can only hope that this can be built on in upcoming years with greater success.

The two other games played on the fifth and final Hexagonal Matchday were Colombia vs Brazil and Ecuador vs Uruguay – talent-spotting articles have now also been published for these encounters. 

Otherwise, to keep track with the careers of these and many other talented South Americans, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Brazil 2-2 Argentina (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 4, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 8 February 2017)

The third and final game which took place on Hexagonal Matchday 4 of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw Brazil face Argentina. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

hexagonal8217

(Source: Wikipedia)

Brazil 2-2 Argentina

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 8 February 2017 (YouTube)

With less than ten seconds left of stoppage-time, Argentina equalised to keep their hopes of World Cup qualification alive, but this draw nevertheless leaves them with only an outside possibility of gaining the fourth and final spot for South Korea 2017. They went behind after 10 minutes when Richarlison controlled a long ball in the area and, at the second bite of the cherry, directed a shot into the back of the net. Argentina were on level terms in the 26th minute when a corner was knocked into the path of Brian Mansilla, who instinctively found the back of the net. In the second half, Brazil won a penalty which, after some delay, Felipe Vizeu converted in the 66th minute. However, with elimination seeming on the cards, Los Pibes slightly stepped up their game though still looked like they were doomed until the 95th minute when Tomás Conechny knocked in a cross that Lautaro Martínez nodded home. Thus, Brazil, with five points, will have to wait and hope that they can see off Colombia on Saturday before confirming their qualification, though this is nevertheless a superior position to be in than Argentina, who will have to beat Venezuela and, most likely, hope other results (such as a Colombian win/draw) go their way.

Talent Spotting

brazilflag Brazil

It was not really a game in which any individual talent repeatedly stood out, so what follows instead is a list of key opportunities, including the goals. Some players may not have had more than one moment of note, but avid watchers of this tournament will know that this is far from the first time that certain individuals have created a good chance or scored. What’s that cliché about how ‘you don’t notice him all match and then he goes and does something like that…’?

Brazil’s opening goal came in the 10th minute when a sublime pinpoint ball was played forward from the centre-circle by Maycon (No. 17, Corinthians) who found Richarlison (No. 18, Fluminense); at the second attempt whilst down on the turf, the latter was able to guide the ball low into the corner to make it 1-0 and gain his second goal of the tournament. Eight minutes later, Matheus Sávio (No. 20, Flamengo) curled in a free-kick from the left with his right that Léo Santos (No. 15, Corinthians) headed onto the crossbar; subsequently, another ball was put in from the right which Santos headed on and Lyanco (No. 4, São Paulo) knocked into the back of the net, but alas, the flag had been raised. In the 39th minute, Richarlison twist-and-turned on the left just outside the area before hitting a right-footed effort wide of the mark. Then, three minutes later, Richarlison returned a pass to Guilherme Arana (No. 6, Corinthians) who bombed into the area by the left byline before putting in a dangerous low cross, though nobody could connect with it.

Into the second half, left-back Arana – who has two goals in this tournament – came forward into the area again in the 56th minute, though his well-hit shot went just wide of the far post. However, despite not really putting their opponents under too much pressure, Brazil were granted an opportunity to regain their lead in the 66th minute; following a tug in the area, Felipe Vizeu (No. 9, Flamengo) stepped up to convert a penalty to make it 2-1 and gain his fourth goal of the competition.

Otherwise, Brazil didn’t create a great deal else and while they largely dealt with the relatively mild Argentine pressure, they ultimately fell short. Nevertheless, win on Saturday against Colombia – who may be bottom but did actually beat Brazil in the first stage – or at least match Argentina’s result and they will be through.

argentinaflag Argentina

As with Brazil, there certainly wasn’t anyone running the show for Argentina, though those involved with the goals were nevertheless some of their best players of the tournament. Thus, what follows are details on their best opportunities, including the two that they put away.

In the 16th minute, Juan Foyth (No. 13, Estudiantes de La Plata) hit a strike with his left boot from 25 yards, which the goalkeeper had to parry before gathering, though in truth it wasn’t too challenging. Nine minutes later, Brian Mansilla (No. 11, Racing Club) created a better opportunity when he got past a player on the right before poking in a ball with the outside of his left boot, which a Brazilian defender deflected just over his own bar. Then, from the subsequent corner taken by Lucas Rodríguez (No. 7, Estudiantes de La Plata), Cristian Romero (No. 2, Belgrano) headed it on and Mansilla stuck out his leg to knock the ball home to make it 1-1. In the 32nd minute, Tomás Belmonte (No. 17, Lanús) picked up a ball on the edge of the area before firing over on the turn and three minutes later from long range, Mansilla whacked an effort that went wide but caused a minor scare. However, a far more substantial chance came in the 43rd minute when Rodríguez raced up the right in space and crossed it for Mansilla; it seemed like a textbook breakaway goal was about to be scored but alas, his volley went marginally wide of the post.

Into the second half, Argentina really looked like they were heading out after going 2-1 down, creating hardly anything until the 72nd minute. Indeed, at this point, substitute Tomás Conechny (No. 20, San Lorenzo) received a chipped ball from fellow substitute Ezequiel Barco (No. 10, Independiente) though his shot from the left of the area was blocked for a corner, which Conechny himself crossed over everyone to the other side. 11 minutes later, Milton Valenzuela (No. 3, Newell’s Old Boys) looked like he was about to put in a cross from the left edge of the area though his ball, probably unintentionally, instead went just over, hitting the roof of the net. Then a couple of minutes later, the other substitute Ramón Mierez (No. 22, Tigre) was on the receiving end of two knock-ons from corners but couldn’t get a good connection on either.

However, in the 95th minute, not long after Conechny sliced a shot and all seemed lost, the same man was able to put in a fine left-footed cross from the left which found the head of Lautaro Martínez (No. 9, Racing Club) who headed home his third tournament goal to ensure his country fights to the last day.

However, even if they beat Venezuela, the odds, other matches and their goal difference are all very much stacked against them. If they make it to South Korea in May, they’ll need to either admonish a savage beating and/or hope at least one of the other games very much goes their way – frankly, whilst they can not be counted out, one does not fancy their chances.

The two other games played on Hexagonal Matchday 4 were Ecuador vs Colombia and Uruguay vs Venezuela – talent-spotting articles have also been published for these matches.

Otherwise, the fifth and final Matchday of the Hexagonal will be on 11 February 2017 and the games shall be Argentina vs Venezuela, Colombia vs Brazil and Ecuador vs Uruguay – expect to see one last 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.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Ecuador 3-0 Argentina (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 3, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 5 February 2017)

The final game which took place on Hexagonal Matchday 3 of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw hosts Ecuador face holders Argentina. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

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(Source: Wikipedia)

Ecuador 3-0 Argentina

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 5 February 2017 (YouTube)

Argentina put in a woeful performance as they were comfortably trounced by hosts Ecuador, who got themselves back into the hunt for World Cup qualification. Indeed, Ecuador dominated the chances, with their first goal coming after 40 minutes, when Pervis Estupiñán struck home a penalty. They doubled their lead in the 58th minute when Bryan Cabezas slid the ball across the goalmouth where it was knocked in at the back post by Jordy Caicedo. The third and final goal came five minutes later when Cabezas dispossessed and bustled his way past a defender on the left in the area before squeezing home a finish.

Talent Spotting

ecuadorflag Ecuador

Pervis Estupiñán (No. 6, Granada, Spain) stepped up to convert his 40th-minute penalty down the middle with consummate ease – this was his third successful spot-kick in consecutive games and the left-back now has a remarkable four goals altogether in the tournament.

He also had a hand in the second goal after 58 minutes when he slid the ball on the left to  Bryan Cabezas (No. 10, Atalanta, Italy); he, in turn, knocked a low ball across the goalmouth where it was tapped in by Jordy Caicedo (No. 19, Universidad Católica, Ecuador) at the back post. For the third goal some five minutes later, right-back Kevin Minda (No. 4, L.D.U. Quito) played a long diagonal ball which Cabezas quickly mugged a defender of before knocking past the goalkeeper. Cabezas, in particular, impressed with his goal and assist and he also had Ecuador’s first two chances of the game. Indeed, in the third minute on the left in the area, he knocked a ball that bounced back to him so, instinctively, he whacked a strike from an angle, but it was always rising and went over. Then, four minutes later at the corner of the area on the left, he struck a shot that was hit with the pace of a cross but nevertheless forced the goalkeeper to first parry, then gather.

Otherwise, Ecuador had the lion’s share of the chances, including the following:

In the 15th minute, Herlin Lino (No. 9, Barcelona SC, Ecuador) whacked a strike from the right just outside of the area, but it went over. Four minutes later, Caicedo chased a long ball up the right into the area, though his shot from a slightly awkward angle was easily saved. The following minute from just outside of the left corner of the area, Jordan Sierra (No. 15, Delfin) hit a well-paced right-footed strike that was parried low at the near post. Seven minutes later, Sierra curled in a good cross from the right and Lino rose high, coming extremely close to the target but his header bounced inches wide of the post. Much later on in 52nd minute, Ecuador’s other chance of note occurred when Caicedo came bustling forward, played a one-two and then hit a right-footed dipping effort from 30 yards which went just a yard or two over.

argentinaflag Argentina

Los Pibes barely had an opportunity worth speaking of, with most of their attempts on the Ecuador goal coming from long distance. Indeed, in the 7th minute, right-back Nicolás Zalazar (No. 14, San Lorenzo) struck with the outside of his right boot from 30 yards, though this ultimately dipped rather harmlessly for the goalkeeper to catch. 11 minutes later, some 25-30 yards out from a free-kick on the left, one of Argentina’s more impressive players in the tournament, Tomás Conechny (No. 20, San Lorenzo), hit his effort just a yard or so over the bar. Then in the 31st minute, defender Cristian Romero (No. 2, Belgrano) intercepted a ball before shooting from 30 yards on the inside-right, but this went to the goalkeeper.

Otherwise, the only other half-chance of note came in the 65th minute when Lautaro Martínez (No. 9, Racing Club) took on two or three players from the right before making it into the area; he tried to strike an effort with his left boot but, owing to pressure from a defender, ended up hitting this shot wide of the mark.

The pickings really were that slim for Argentina and while their penultimate game against Brazil may not technically be a must-win game, with just three points from a possible nine, it will certainly be treated that way in order to keep their World Cup hopes alive.

The two other games played on Hexagonal Matchday 3 were Brazil vs Venezuela and Uruguay vs Colombia – talent-spotting articles have already been published for these matches.

Otherwise, Matchday 4 of the Hexagonal will be on 8 February 2017 and the games shall be Ecuador vs Colombia, Uruguay vs Venezuela and Brazil 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.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Colombia 1-2 Argentina (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 2, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 2 February 2017)

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… 

groupstage020217

(Source: Wikipedia)

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.

Talent Spotting

colombia Colombia

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.

argentinaflag Argentina

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.

The two other games played on Hexagonal Matchday 2 were Uruguay vs Brazil and Ecuador vs Venezuela – talent-spotting articles have now also been published by both of these matches. 

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.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Uruguay 3-0 Argentina (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 1, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 30 January 2017)

With six teams having qualified from the initial group stage, the Final Phase – also known as the Hexagonal – of the 2017 edition of the U-20 South American Youth Championship is now under way. The second of the three games which took place on Matchday 1 saw Uruguay face Argentina, in a rapid rematch of the two sides’ 3-3 draw nine days prior. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

30117grouo

(Source: Wikipedia)

Uruguay 3-0 Argentina

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 30 January 2017 (YouTube)

Following a 32nd-minute straight red card awarded to Argentina’s Tomás Belmonte, Uruguay went on to comfortably win on what was, in the first half in particular, a rather puddle-laden pitch. Before this game-changing moment, Los Pibes had actually been the more threatening, but just six minutes after the dismissal, Uruguay went ahead following a sensational low, long-range effort from Nicolás De La Cruz. Barely two minutes later, their lead was doubled as left-back Mathías Olivera was played into some space on the left of the area and struck home at the near post. The game was all but over at the break and La Celeste‘s youths effectively killed off any slim hopes of a miraculous fightback when, in the 62nd minute, Rodrigo Amaral ghosted in to head home a cross to make it 3-0. The remaining half-hour was thus the dampest of damp squibs, with the final whistle coming as blessed relief for Argentina, who will surely need a rather strong recovery in order to be within a shout of retaining their title. Uruguay, on the other hand, have put themselves in a commanding position.

Talent Spotting

uruguayflag Uruguay

In the 17th minute, Nicolás De La Cruz (No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay) curled in a free-kick that Carlos Benavidez (No. 8, Defensor Sporting) at the back post directed goalwards but which the goalkeeper saved. De La Cruz did also look to play in some of his other team-mates but his one outstanding contribution to the game was the opening goal after 38 minutes. Indeed, seemingly out of nowhere, he picked up the ball some 35 yards out, put it onto his right, then unleashed a brilliant, swerving strike, that curled slightly away from the far post before ultimately creeping low and inside of it.

Though perhaps less notable than some of his compatriots in previous games, Facundo Waller (No. 15, Plaza Colonia) has quietly impressed in this tournament and actually played a role in the two subsequent Uruguayan goals. In the 40th minute, he was the target of a pinpoint, diagonal ball from Benavidez which he nodded on from the left flank into the path of left-back Mathías Olivera (No. 5, Club Atlético Atenas). He, in turn, took advantage of some very slack tracking followed by some poor goalkeeping before, from the left inside the area, managing to squeeze a shot in at the near post to double his side’s lead. Later in the 62nd minute, Waller was on the right flank and adjusted to put in a bouncing cross with his left which Rodrigo Amaral (No. 10, Nacional, Uruguay) sneaked in to head low to make it 3-0. Regarding the goalscorer, whilst this goal made him joint top-scorer in the tournament with four goals, it must be said that other than this moment, he didn’t do a great deal else of note during the match. Furthermore, as he hasn’t yet lasted a full 90 minutes of any game and appears to be carrying some extra weight (or is it just a case of ‘big bones’?), one wonders if this potential star is fully fit.

Otherwise, goalkeeper Santiago Mele (No. 1, Fénix) made at least a few decent saves, with a particularly notable one occurring in the 28th minute, when he just about got his gloves on a low drive from Torres.

Lastly, a quick mention for Rodrigo Bentancur (No. 20, Boca Juniors), who was on the receiving end of a horrific late studding from Belmonte and, quite probably as a consequence, was later withdrawn, limping off in the process. No word yet on the condition of the Juventus target, though given the quality he has occasionally displayed during the tournament, one hopes that he makes a speedy recovery.

argentinaflag Argentina

Given that, owing to the recklessness of Tomás Belmonte (No. 17, Lanús), Argentina did not have many opportunities to go forward, they can’t really be said to have had any standout players. They did, nevertheless, have some chances in the opening half-hour when they had eleven men on the pitch.

First of all, in the 6th minute, Brian Mansilla (No. 11, Racing Club) did well to roam from the left flank into the area before dinking a ball towards the back post for Lucas Rodríguez (No. 7, Estudiantes de La Plata). However, his header looked as if it bounced against the arm of Olivera, yet it was a corner not a penalty that was awarded. Five minutes later, from a free-kick 30 yards out on the inside-right channel, Nicolás Zalazar (No. 14, San Lorenzo) drove a powerful shot that arrowed just a yard or so over. Perhaps the closest Argentina came to a goal occurred in the 27th minute when a cut-back was deflected into the path of Marcelo Torres (No. 21, Boca Juniors); the prolific striker thus shaped to place his left-footed effort low into the corner but was denied by a good Mele save. The subsequent corner was then headed towards Torres at the edge of the six-yard-box, yet by the time that he got his footing sorted out, his attempt was rapidly blocked by Mele.

Otherwise, left-back Milton Valenzuela (No. 3, Newell’s Old Boys) put in several decent crosses throughout the game, even if none of his colleagues made a telling connection.

Finally, the only real chance Argentina had after the sending off came late in the day when Uruguay were about to pack up. Indeed, this occurred three minutes from time when Zalazar put in a fine cross from the inside-right which found substitute Ramón Mierez (No. 22, Tigre), though his header was well-parried by goalkeeper Mele.

Ultimately, after this write-off, Argentina will hope to bounce back and, with eleven men, display more of their attacking abilities; however, Colombia, like virtually all the other teams left in the competition, should prove to be stiff opposition.

The two other games played on Hexagonal Matchday 1 were Colombia vs Venezuela and Ecuador vs Brazil – please click to read talent-spotting articles for these encounters. 

Otherwise, Matchday 2 of the Hexagonal will be on 2 February 2017 and the games shall be Colombia vs Argentina, Uruguay vs Brazil and Ecuador vs Venezuela – 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.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Day 10 – 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20 (Uruguay 3-0 Bolivia & Argentina 0-0 Venezuela)

On the tenth day of the 2017 edition of the prestigious U-20 South American Youth Championship, attention turned to the final matches from Group B, which concluded the entire group stage: Uruguay took on Bolivia, then holders Argentina faced Venezuela. Below are video highlights, brief summaries of each game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting…

groupb270117

(Source: Wikipedia)

Uruguay 3-0 Bolivia

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group B, 27 January 2017 (YouTube)

Uruguay secured their place in the Hexagonal with this comfortable win over Bolivia, who had to await the outcome of the subsequent game to see if they would still be joining them. After 18 minutes, defender Agustín Rogel opened the scoring by knocking in Nicolás De La Cruz’s free-kick from the left. Later, just before half time, Rodrigo Bentancur doubled the lead with a golazo, as he teed himself up for a fantastic strike from just outside the area which swiftly bypassed the goalkeeper’s gloves. Bolivia did make some forward forays but it was mainly Uruguay who created the best chances; they wrapped things up with the third goal in the 83rd minute when Rodrigo Amaral was slid into a one-on-one position in the area – he thus controlled and placed his shot just inside the near post.

Talent Spotting

uruguayflag Uruguay

Though the resting of a few notable players as well as the relative ease with which La Celeste‘s youths undertook their task perhaps meant superheroic feats were not required, some players nevertheless had their moments.

Captain Nicolás De La Cruz (No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay) was responsible for the 18th-minute free-kick crossed into the area with his right boot from the left which found Agustín Rogel (No. 18, Nacional) in a crowd; from this, the centre-back instinctively converted for the opening goal. Aside from this assist, though De La Cruz took some more set-pieces and got into some decent positions, the closest he came to having any role in another goal was his 77th-minute shot; here, from approximately 25 yards, he picked up the ball and quickly struck a good cross-goal effort that the goalkeeper did well to parry wide.

Perhaps more so than during his previous two tournament games, Rodrigo Bentancur (No. 20, Boca Juniors, Argentina) – here, returning from suspension – was more of an attacking threat. From the halfway-line in the 12th minute, the highly-rated holding midfielder came roaming fotward to the edge of area, where he struck low and wide. Ten minutes later, he again gained much space for himself, this time with a nice first touch on the right, though his low ball into the area caused no harm. However, he certainly did some damage in the 44th minute when a corner was eventually knocked towards him just outside the area, somewhat right-of-centre. From here, he took a couple of touches with his right to tee himself up in a standing position that was virtually parallel to the goal-line; subsequently, he unleashed a brilliant left-footed strike that flew past the goalkeeper at the near post to double the lead.

Given the scoreline, 65th-minute substitute Rodrigo Amaral (No. 10, Nacional, Uruguay) did not really need to be a driving force, terrorising opposition players. Nevertheless, though he otherwise managed a minor charge or two as well as a late unremarkable shot, he did also get himself a goal. This came in the 83rd minute when Diego Rossi (No. 16, Peñarol) neatly made his way past a player before playing Amaral into space on the left inside the area; the latter took just one touch before squeezing the ball in at the near post for the third.

One man who made a nuisance of himself throughout the game without, ultimately, making it count was Joaquín Ardaiz (No. 7, Danubio), starting here his first game after two brief substitute appearances. He actually almost scored, not once, but twice: firstly, in the 24th minute when he beat a defender to a through-ball on the inside left; from the edge of the area, he poked a low bobbling shot past the goalkeeper but it came back off the far post. Later on in the 75th minute, he arguably had a better opportunity when he was found in much space, one-on-one; however, despite waiting for the ample moment to lift the ball over the goalkeeper, his effort was too low and easily blocked for a corner. Otherwise, though there’s a fair chance he will hit the back of the net at some point over the next fortnight, the several additional shots and crosses he attempted either missed their targets or were of little serious threat.

boliviaflag Bolivia

Though, as it turned out, a draw would have kept Bolivia in, they were unable to match their opponents and, barring a couple of minor moments, put in a fairly forgettable performance. Indeed, the likes of Limberg Gutiérrez (No. 20, Nacional, Uruguay), Moisés Villarroel (No. 8, Bolívar), Bruno Miranda (No. 11, Universidad de Chile, Chile), Ronaldo Monteiro (No. 9, Bolívar) and Rubén Cordano (No. 1, Blooming) may have suggested potential in their opening day win against Peru. However, there was little from them to get excited about in their subsequent three games; goalkeeper Cordano, for one, has largely discredited himself in the last two matches with some poor fumbles, though he was nevertheless notable here against Uruguay for taking a 53rd-minute free-kick from 25 yards, which went through to his opposite number. The free-kick taking goalkeeper – a fine South American tradition.

However, one man who it may be worth keeping an eye out for in future is 17-year-old Ramiro Vaca (No. 10, Quebracho). He scored a great free-kick against Argentina and also got another one on target as well as nearly setting up a goal against Venezuela; here against Uruguay just before half time, he curled a great right-footed free-kick from around 35 yards, requiring the goalkeeper to parry out wide.

Argentina 0-0 Venezuela

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group B, 27 January 2017 (YouTube)

Not a game to dwell on for too long. Given the result of the preceding encounter, Argentina knew they were already through and did not seem too fussed about nabbing first place off Uruguay; Venezuela, on the other hand, merely required a draw. Thus, neither goalkeeper was seriously tested with instead the closest thing to a goal being one or two blasted efforts off-target and some through balls that just needed a touch of two. Owing to their precarious position, Venezuela could never really relax, though when Argentina had Cristian Romero sent off in the 85th minute, seeing out the draw did become somewhat easier. When the full-time whistle blew, their players understandably rejoiced.

Talent Spotting

argentinaflag Argentina

There are many talented players in the Argentine ranks, though this did not really prove to be the occasion to showcase their abilities.

Although he had less success than in previous games, Tomás Conechny (No. 20, San Lorenzo) was perhaps his side’s liveliest attacking player. The closest he came to scoring occurred in the 63rd minute when he did well to chest a cross from the left, before blasting a left-footed effort from 15 yards that went just over, giving the goalkeeper an almightly fright along the way.

Otherwise, he sometimes won space on the flanks, put in some half-decent balls and generally tried to tee up team-mates. All Argentine moments of semi-interest seemed to involve him and these included: a 10th-minute cross from the left that Tomás Belmonte (No. 17, Lanús) headed straight over; a 12th-minute short ball to Lautaro Martínez (No. 9, Racing Club) who, in turn, passed to Belmonte centrally 25 yards out and whose shot, though well-hit, went wide; a 42nd-minute Conechy left-sided corner that was headed over to the right to be put back into the area by Brian Mansilla (No. 11, Racing Club), from whom somehow the ball fell to top-scorer Marcelo Torres (No. 21, Boca Juniors) at an acute angle, though his cross-shot was parried out and cleared; lastly, a 49th-minute Conechny free-kick from 30 yards that dipped low and caused the goalkeeper to awkwardly spill out.

Nevertheless, despite these slim pickings, expect to see much more of these players and some of their team-mates in the Hexagonal stage; as ever, Argentina look to be one of the favourites to claim the trophy.

venezuelaflag Venezuela

Similarly, Rafael Dudamel’s men did not come out all guns blazing seeking a goal, though they did nevertheless cause some trouble in the final third:

In the 23rd minute, goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez (No. 1, Caracas FC) – who would later cause concern when Conechny’s free-kick bounced off him – pumped a ball upfield that the returning Yangel Herrera (No. 8, Atlético Venezuela) jumped to knock on; subsequently, the ball whistled just past Antonio Romero (No. 19, Deportivo Lara) in the area and wide. Four minutes later, Ronaldo Lucena (No. 16, Zamora FC) – who may well be his side’s most useful set-piece taker – curled in a dangerous free-kick from the left which begged for a knock goalwards, but was instead deflected off for a corner. Eight minutes later, right-back Ronald Hernández (No. 20, Zamora FC) surprised many by taking on a couple of players on his flank before working his way into the area; ultimately, he attempted to get a shot away but was blocked off.

In the second half, Yeferson Soteldo (No. 10, Huachipato, Chile) continued being a sporadic nuisance and the closest he came to having a hand in a goal was his 77th-minute free-kick from the left; this was knocked low through the wall and caused the goalkeeper to block it out, with the ball then being hesitantly cleared for a corner. However, probably the closest Venezuela came to a goal occurred from the free-kick on the left that followed Cristian Romero’s dismissal. Indeed, Ronaldo Lucena dipped this in towards the back post where Williams Velásquez (No. 2, Estudiantes de Caracas) was standing, but alas, the ball was just a little too high for the defender.

Nevertheless, for the first time since the Salomón Rondón-led generation of 2009, Venezuela have made it to the final stage of the tournament. Curiously and somewhat impressively, they currently have the best defensive record of the final six teams (one goal conceded in four games) as well as the worst attacking stats (one goal scored in four games). Many eyes will be interested to see whether the likes of Fariñez and Herrera can maintain the former and, on the other hand, whether Soteldo, in particular, can make his dribbles and playmaking count more by playing a role in at least a few additional goals.

To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter. The next games will be on 30 January 2017 when the Hexagonal phase, featuring the six qualified teams, gets under way. The matches will be Colombia vs Venezuela, Uruguay vs Argentina and Ecuador vs Brazil – expect to see another bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com. 

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical