On the seventh day of the 2017 edition of the prestigious U-20 South American Youth Championship, attention turned back to Group A, with Paraguay taking on Chile and Colombia facing Brazil. Below are video highlights, brief summaries of each game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting…
Paraguay 2-1 Chile
CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group A, 24 January 2017 (YouTube)
Pre-game, both sides seemed the likeliest to be going home early from Group A, but with a late winner, Paraguay greatly enhanced their chances of progressing, whilst putting Chile on the brink. Yet, it was La Rojita who made most of the early running, with the returning Jeisson Vargas setting up chances and rattling the crossbar from a free-kick. However, very much against the run of play, Paraguay took the lead in the 33rd minute when Pedro Báez twisted one way and then the other before striking home. It wasn’t to be until the 82nd minute that Chile got back on level terms; they did so via somewhat fortuitous means when a mis-hit cross bounced into the goalmouth, evading everyone except Ignacio Jara. Despite this relief, their joy was shortlived as in stoppage-time, following a rebound, the ball found its way through to Cristhian Paredes, who hit the back of the net.
Although he had less of a monopoly over the Paraguayan creativity than he did against Brazil, Jesús Medina (No. 11, Libertad) nevertheless played his part in some of the attempts on the Chile goal. Indeed, it was he who passed the ball up to Pedro Báez (No. 9, Real Salt Lake, USA, on loan from Cerro Porteño), though it is the latter who deserves most credit for the 33rd-minute opener, as he fooled a cluster of defenders before firing home with his left peg. Later in the 78th minute, Medina played a more substantial role in what was nearly the second goal, as his corner to the near post area bounced before purposely reaching the alert Saúl Salcedo (No. 5, Olimpia) whose elegant flick-shot with the outside of his right boot had to be quickly parried. With three minutes left Medina, this time from a free-kick, chipped in another ball that found its target in Báez, but alas, this went straight to the goalkeeper; thus, the eventual winner was to come from a different route altogther.
Indeed, Cristhian Paredes (No. 6, Club América, Mexico) deserves praise for both starting and ending the sequence of events that led to this stoppage-time goal. He picked up the ball in the middle of the park, holding off a defender along the way before nudging it to Sebastián Ferreira (No. 19, Olimpia) on the edge of the area, who poked a shot at the goalkeeper. The rebound fell to Guillermo Paiva (No. 16, 3 de Febrero), who knocked in a low ball from the right inside the area towards the goalmouth; this was missed with an air-kick from Ferreira, but waiting behind him was Paredes, who fired home to claim the glory.
Otherwise, it would be remiss to note that just before this, Paraguay actually had two other notable chances to regain the lead, both featuring players involved with the goal. Indeed, Paiva was, in a way atoning for his miss barely a minute prior when, having just come on as a substitute, he was played into clear space around the edge of the area yet horribly screwed a right-footed shot wide.
Previous to this, Ferreira had rose rather well on the edge of the area to head a deep free-kick from the right; his effort bounced and seemingly threatened to creep inside the far post, but alas, this went a yard wide. This set-piece was played in by right-back Rodi Ferreira (No. 2, Olimpia) and it certainly wasn’t his only creative input in the game, having come close to the target from a free-kick earlier on and also having sent in some other testing balls. Already a regular at club level, it looks like his country may have a decent pair of full-backs in he and Blás Riveros (No. 4, Basel, Switzerland).
Particularly in the first half, Chile saw much of the ball and, more than anyone else, the man leading the drive for a goal was the returning Jeisson Vargas (No. 10, Estudiantes de La Plata, Argentina, on loan from Bologna, Italy); following on from his crude red card against Brazil, he provided several, more positive, instances of his talents. With less than two minutes gone, he played an incisive pass forward to 17-year-old Iván Morales (No. 19, Colo Colo) who just about shielded the ball away from the Paraguay goalkeeper before immediately turning and striking low; alas, defender Pablo Meza had quickly sensed this and was there on the goal-line to clear. Morales had a couple of other minor moments of note in the first half when generally being a nuisance to the opposition defence and may well be one to look out for at 2019’s tournament. Nevertheless, Vargas was the main man in this period, playing in balls and striking from range – at one point, he actually managed three shots in just under five minutes. Indeed, from 25 yards in the 24th minute, he struck with intent just wide of the far post; a minute later from a similar position, he hit a dipping free-kick barely a yard over; then, most eye-catchingly of all in the 28th minute, following a free-kick Morales had won after chasing a chipped Vargas ball, the latter whacked a thunderous set-piece that crashed off the crossbar and out. Although he was less conspicuous in the second half, he did nevertheless display some determination and hunger to push forward and cause some uncertainty with his area-bound balls; it’s not hard to see why a Serie A side have already snapped him up.
All that being said, he had no role in the 82nd-minute equalising goal, which had more than an element of fortune about it. Indeed, on the right, Victor Dávila (No. 7, Huachipato) – who caused a few problems with his dribbles, though seems a tad slight – made some space for himself but slipped as he was crossing in with his left boot. The ball thus bounced unpredictably in the goalmouth with first Morales missing it and then a defender being put in an awkward position; before he could do anything decisive about it, Ignacio Jara (No. 15, Cobreloa) pounced at the back post to get the goal.
Alas, ultimately, it wasn’t to be enough and now Chile find themselves perched over the precipice of elimination.
Colombia 1-0 Brazil
CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group A, 24 January 2017 (YouTube)
Brazil rested several of their hitherto most effective players as Colombia snatched a victory in a game no doubt appreciated more by the Mario Yepes’ than the Carlos Valderramas of this world. Indeed, despite having a lively tempo, clear chances were not easy to come by, with the two defences both emerging from this with the most plaudits. From range, Colombia’s Juan Hernández perhaps came closest with a respectable effort and, later, he could have perhaps had an assist to his name had Michael Gómez got more direction on his header. The second half largely consisted of defences getting the upper hand, though Brazil did come close in the 58th minute when a spilled free-kick was nodded onto the post by Lucas Cunha, though the rebound from this was nervily blocked. To witness a goal in this game was certainly unanticipated and the manner in which it arrived even more so: from a difficult angle on the right in the 87th minute, substitute Ever Valencia struck what looked like a cross, but which may have taken a minor deflection that surprisingly deceived the goalkeeper. Despite this loss, Brazil are through to the Final Phase, whereas these three points for Colombia mean that while a draw against Chile in their final game could well be enough for them to qualify, a victory certainly will be. Their fate now lies in their own feet.
Though no attacking player could be said to have put in a vintage performance, Juan ‘El Cucho’ Hernández (No. 10, América de Cali, on loan from Granada, Spain) again made some notable contributions. After just 9 minutes on the left, he exhibited some fine natural ability when, apropos of nothing, he turned to put in a superb right-footed dipping cross which Michael Nike Gómez (No. 11, Envigado) met before the goalkeeper, but his connection was weak and went wide. Finishing like that won’t be earning ‘Mike Nike’ any lucrative sponsorship deals any time soon, though Hernández may have more luck in that department. He also came closest to the target in the first half when, from the right edge of the area in the 34th minute, he struck a decent effort that the goalkeeper had to tip over.
Otherwise, Colombia struggled to get a clear sight of goal within a realistic shooting distance and the likes of Luis Fernando Díaz (No. 17, Barranquilla) were often squeezed for time and space on the flanks. Indeed, for this otherwise persistent individual it didn’t get much better than a 47th minute cross-field pass that he played to Jorge Obregón (No. 19, Unión Magdalena) who, to the annoyance of Hernández in the centre, struck over from the right edge of the area. Also, in the 56th minute, right-back Leyser Chaverra (No. 15, Universitario Popayán) showed a brief glimpse as to why he may be one-to-watch when he came inside, received an unintentional one-two from his own forward nudge, then instinctively shot from range, though this was easily stopped by the goalkeeper.
Nevertheless, despite all these underwhelming attacks, they got the crucial goal. In the 87th minute, substitute Ever Valencia (No. 13, Atlético Bucaramanga) curled in a free-kick from an acute position on the right – ‘Ian Woan territory‘, if you will – and, though he no doubt was expecting a team-mate to get a touch on it, it somehow went past the keeper and in. It may have actually taken a slight touch off Brazil’s Léo Jabá, but as the ball wasn’t too elevated, it seems the goalkeeper was anticipating it to be headed away; instead, it flew by for Valencia’s second goal of the tournament.
Lastly, while Colombia’s defence may deserve some praise for the clean sheet, as they were playing a weakened Brazil side and three of their own back four in this match also conceded four goals in the Ecuador game, one may wish to withhold judgement for the time being.
Though they succumbed to what was a slightly fortuitous goal, Brazil’s defensive organisation deserves some acclaim for this performance as well as for all of the opening four games (three conceded). Those on the flanks, Rogério (No. 16, Juventus Primavera, Italy) and Robson Bambu (No. 13, Santos), performed admirable roles restricting the amount of balls into the area whilst centre-back Lyanco (No. 4, São Paulo) has an impressive stature and exuded confidence when coming out with the ball.
The other centre-back, Lucas Cunha (No. 3, Braga, Portugal), actually had his side’s best opportunity of the match. This came in the 58th minute following a free-kick dipped into area from the right by Allan (No. 5, Hertha BSC, Germany, on loan from Liverpool, England) which bounced through the bodies and was unconvincingly patted out by the goalkeeper. Lucas Cunha was thus on hand for the rebound but his header was directed a little too close to the corner, where it hit the post; from this, Maycon (No. 17, Corinthians) snapped a strike that would have gone in had it not been for an opponent getting in the way.
Otherwise, a few deflected shots and a minor 20-yard attempt from Giovanny (No. 21, Atlético Paranaense) that was comfortably saved low was about all this makeshift Brazil side were able to create. However, one suspects the coaching staff won’t be too worried as not only were they able to give some key players a rest but also all of those who did play will now go into the Final Phase with the relative luxury of five days off before their first match on 30 January.
To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter. The next games will be Venezuela vs Bolivia & Uruguay vs Peru from Group B – expect to see another bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com.