Tag Archives: South American talent

2017 Under-20 South American Youth Championship – A Look Ahead

 

Possibly against his better judgement, @DarrenSpherical is preparing to watch and report back on the leading talents in all 35 games of the upcoming Under-20 South American Youth Championship. If you are seeking information on the teams and players participating, click one of the links at the bottom of this article (or alternatively, here). Otherwise, featuring some reflections on the last tournament two years ago, provided below is a loose idea of what is in store over these 25 days…

quitostadium

Estadio Olímpico Atahualpa, Quito, Ecuador (capacity: 35,724). The venue for the 15 games of the Final Phase. 

2017 Under-20 South American Youth Championship – A Look Ahead

It faces stiff competition in the football-watching itineraries of even the most caffeine-addled obsessives, but within the next several years, many of its headline-grabbers are likely to invade the elite leagues of world football. From 18 January until 11 February witnesses the return of the biennial, raw talent-loaded South American Youth Championship (Campeonato Sudamericano Sub-20 Juventud de América).

Between them, the Under-20 sides of the 10 CONMEBOL nations shall make use of four different stadiums in the north and centre of Ecuador and duke it out in the latest edition of this prestigious competition. Such is the draw that it possesses that a staggering 65,235 turned up at Montevideo’s historic Estadio Centenario for 2015’s deciding match between hosts Uruguay and eventual-winners Argentina. Yet, though both of those sides certainly cared about winning, the competition is as much a qualification stage for the Under-20 World Cup.

Indeed, the tournament is structured as follows: the 10 CONMEBOL nations are split into two groups of five teams, in which they all play each other once. After these four games, the top three teams from each group go through to the final league of six sides, all of whom play each other once. Although following these five games whichever selección has the most points in this table shall momentarily bask in the glory of winning the trophy, all of the top four will nevertheless be travelling to South Korea in May for the World Cup. Thus, as one should be able to deduce, there is no actual knock-out final; it just so happened that last time around the top two played each other in what was the last match.

Cramming nine games into 24-25 days for each of the final six nations may not sound entirely conducive to the development of their players; however, intentionally or otherwise, it serves well the biggest attraction of this tournament: talent-spotting. Indeed, as the youngsters will be fully aware, professional scouts and agents from all over the world shall be present at the games, with many more of varying qualifications watching on from afar. To get an idea of the calibre of players who may be displaying their wares in the upcoming weeks, a perusal of past squad lists yields many household names. Lionel Messi? He banged in five goals in 2005 in an Argentina team featuring Pablo Zabaleta, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas Biglia and Ezequiel Garay. Alexis Sánchez? He was there with Chile in 2007 alongside a six-goal Arturo Vidal, as well as Gary Medel and Mauricio Isla. Neymar? He led Brazil to victory in 2011 with nine goals in a squad that included Danilo, Casemiro, Oscar, Alex Sandro, Lucas Moura and Juan Jesus.

They have much to live up to and it is too early to judge the class of ’15; they are, after all, still between just 19 and 21 years of age. Nevertheless, it seems noteworthy that the final, decisive clash from that tournament featured some of the players who have since enjoyed the greatest prominence at club level. Indeed, the opener was scored by Uruguay’s Gastón Pereiro, one of the players of the tournament with five goals, who in July 2015 was snapped up by PSV Eindhoven for a handsome fee; in October of that year he also scored both goals in an away win against Ajax and now has over 20 goals to his name. Argentina’s first-half equaliser came courtesy of Sebastián Driussi who, in the last several months has emerged as a River Plate regular, netting 10 times in 14 league games; he has attracted interest from, amongst others, Tottenham Hotspur. Fittingly, La Albiceleste‘s 81st-minute winner was struck home by four-goal Ángel Correa, widely considered to be the championship’s standout player. Eyes were on the stocky rampager from the off as he had already signed for Atlético Madrid following some impressive displays at San Lorenzo. He has since been in and out of Diego Simeone’s side, though has scored some important goals, including the equaliser in September’s away draw with Barcelona. Speaking of Cholo, his son Giovanni Simeone was in fact the top-scorer in 2015 with nine goals. Derided by some at the time as being largely the beneficiary of the playmaking of Correa and co. as well as, less charitably, a goalhanger, he has answered such critics this season by making his mark on the European game, becoming a regular name on the Genoa scoresheet in Serie A.

Many more who featured in 2015 are playing regularly for top-level clubs in South America. Also, a considerable number of others have made the leap and are currently at teams in major European leagues, some of the most notable being: Gerson (Roma/Brazil), Mauricio Lemos (Las Palmas/Uruguay), Cristian Espinoza (Alavés, on loan from Villarreal/Argentina), Emmanuel Mammana (Lyon/Argentina), Mauro Arambarri (Bordeaux/Uruguay), Malcolm (Bordeaux/Brazil), Antonio Sanabria (Real Betis/Paraguay), Davinson Sánchez (Ajax/Colombia), Kenedy (Chelsea/Brazil), Rafael Santos Borré (Villarreal, on loan from Atlético Madrid/Colombia), Adalberto Peñaranda (Málaga, on loan from Watford/Venezuela), Sergio Díaz (Real Madrid/Paraguay) and Marlon (Barcelona/Brazil).

Some of these impressed two years ago more than others. Another player of note, the much-hyped ‘new Neymar’ Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Barbosa, had a mixed tournament in a patchy Brazil side but has since won Olympic gold, played and scored for the senior side and moved from Santos to Inter Milan for an eye-watering €29.5m. Whether he and the others live up to expectations remains to be seen. By contrast, Colombia’s nippy attacker Jeison Lucumí was widely picked out as one of the stars of Uruguay 2015 yet, in the two years since, has been languishing with fallen giants América de Cali in his country’s second-flight. He may still be only 21 and his team have just been promoted back to the big league but such tales do both cause one to ponder the power and influence of certain agents as well as caution against getting carried away with tournament form.

Indeed, a prime case in point comes from 2005 when Hugo Rodallega ended up the top-scorer, netting a staggering 11 goals. Though he has since distanced himself from the comments, he was reported as claiming that this meant that he is ‘undoubtedly better than Messi‘, who bagged a mere five. In fairness, while he may not have subsequently met some people’s expectations (least of all his own), a career that has included six seasons in the English Premier League can not be glibly dismissed. Quite, for most youth internationals from any part of the world, it would constitute a rip-roaring success.

Nevertheless, roll on Ecuador 2017, false promises, surprise gems and all. As one person could not possibly claim to be an authority on all 10 sides, there will be no overview on this website, but if that is what one seeks then some links at the bottom of this article should come in handy. Having scoured through all the squad lists, it can at least be said that those who regularly watch any of these nations’ domestic leagues should spot several familiar names. Overall, however, very few players have already been snapped up by teams outside of their respective homelands – expect that to change. Also, those who watched two years may recognise a few names, such as Jesús Medina (Paraguay), Adrián Ugarriza (Peru) and Rodrigo Amaral (Uruguay). Each of these players put in good showings and one can not help but wonder if their slight age-advantages will benefit them here. The likes of Gerson, Sergio Díaz and Adalberto Peñaranda would also be eligible for a second throw of the dice but, alas, none of these Europe-based players have been released.  Lastly, 19-year-old Gabriel Jesus, Manchester City’s £27m signing from Palmeiras, did not appear for his country in 2015 yet did at that year’s Under-20 World Cup and has since scored five times for the senior side in qualifiers for Russia 2018; needless to say, he hasn’t made the trip to Ecuador.

Thus, yours truly plans to go into this tournament with open eyes and shall report back after each matchday with observations on the standout players, providing video highlights, brief summaries and maybe the opinions of others as well. With two games per day for the first ten days, followed by a well-earned two-day break before, gulp, three matches per day every three days which cover the final five matchdays, one hopes to maintain one’s sanity.

The opening day is 18 January 2017 and the two matches will be Colombia vs Paraguay and Ecuador vs Brazil. Daily updates should appear on this website following each matchday but for more up-to-the-minute coverage, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter. 

groups

The two groups: the teams play each other once, then from 30 January-11 February, the three top teams from each group play each other once in the final phase of six teams, with the top four qualifying for the Under-20 World Cup). 

Preview Articles

La Pizarra Del DT: Tournament Preview – Perhaps the most detailed overview in Spanish, though these translations should help decode the key information on each page: Estrella – Star, Otro jugador clave – Other key player, Entrenador – Manager, Baja importante – Important loss/absence. You’re welcome.

Argentina Team Preview – The most thorough look at these perennial contenders, courtesy of Peter Coates of Golazo Argentino. Here is another of his articles, which highlights five key players for La Albiceleste.

Uruguay Team PreviewTim Vickery takes a broader, historical perspective in his piece on La Celeste.

ESPN Tournament Preview Article – Tim Vickery with another article again looking both back and forward, this time with a more general outlook.

Goal’s Ones to WatchDaniel Edwards selects 11 players tipped to stand out in 2017’s competition.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Referee for Uruguay-Venezuela (U20s) Reverses Late Goal Decision Following Player Pressure

23 January 2015
2015 South American Youth Championship Group B
Uruguay 0-1 Venezuela

The final group game of the first stage of the prestigious South American Youth Championship between host nation Uruguay and Venezuela ended with some shady and unsavoury scenes that combined the playground with the pub league as La Celeste were denied a legitimate goal. 

Deep into stoppage-time, the referee committed a shameless U-turn following several minutes of vociferous Venezuelan protests, revoking from Uruguay what would have been an equaliser despite having previously signalled for the goal.

What follows beneath the video of the events is a recounting of this farcical episode. 

Stoppage-time Fiasco at Uruguay vs Venezuela (U20s), 23 January 2015 (Video courtesy of YouTube user Elite Player).

Venezuela went into the game having lost their three previous games and were already out of the competition, whereas their opponents possessed a 100% record and had arguably been the best side on display in either of the two groups. However, in a game contested largely by each nations’ second-string, La Vinotinto had been leading 1-0 courtesy of a first-half Jaime Moreno strike when they appeared to concede a late equaliser four minutes into stoppage-time. Their goalkeeper, Deportivo Petare’s Keiner Escorcia – who had up until that point been earning plaudits for his performance – completely misjudged a high, hanging cross, thus allowing Agustín Ale to nod the ball in.

After conceding, Escorcia remained face down on the ground and so initial Uruguayan celebrations were put on ice as the referee, Bolivia’s Alejandro Mancilla, darted over to his assistant on the far touchline, where he soon found himself crowded by members of both teams. After some brief consultation, he signalled towards the half-way line with the universally understood gesticulation confirming the awarding of a goal. Unsurprisingly, this was met with jubilation by the Uruguayans close by, relieved as a loss in front of their compatriots appeared to have been averted.

Murillo

Referee Alejandro Mancilla confronted by Jhon Murillo and his Venezuelan team-mates (Image courtesy of Reuters).

However, literally within a second the referee was furiously confronted by Venezuela’s Jhon Murillo, a man who has been nicknamed ‘Balotelli’ by his compatriots and not only for his appearance. The talented, if temperamental, livewire – who had been one of his team’s best performers – physically blocked the official’s atttempt to run back to the centre of the pitch for the restart, nearly clashing heads in the process. The Zamora FC forward then aggressively intimidated the referee Mancilla, incensed as he wildly gestured with his arms while releasing a seemingly relentless verbal diatribe. Two other officials soon also found themselves in a claustrophobic position in between the advertising hoardings and what was now nearly all of Venezuela’s outfield players, with Murillo as the ringleader. Some of his team-mates such as Rubén Ramírez, Franko Díaz and Carlos Sosa made attempts of varying conviction to restrain him though it never took long for him to find a way through the burgundy-bedecked bodies and back into the officials’ faces. However, though he was the leading protagonist, he was not alone in his actions, so riot police eventually had to step in to quell the situation and stop it from getting any uglier than it already was.

In all, this segment of this elongated episode that took place by the far touchline lasted around three minutes, before the referee had managed to find a police-aided pathway through to the penalty area where he could inspect the origins of the Venezuelan players’ complaints. Here, Escorcia was still down with two of the backroom staff crouching over him. It had no doubt been alleged that he had been fouled by Ale before the Uruguayan’s header hit the back of the net and so the referee appeared to be checking on the goalkeeper’s condition. It did not take long for Venezuelan players to again surround him, though they appeared to have cooled down a few degrees. One, erstwhile peacemaker Ramírez, could be seen communicating with him with his hands over his mouth, though whether this is of any significance is impossible to tell at this stage.

Two further minutes elapsed, at which point Escorcia had been gradually helped to his feet and, astoundingly, handed the ball by the referee to resume the game. The tone of the crowd’s noise suddenly changed and as soon as what must have been a free-kick was taken, the game was abruptly ended. Immediately, Uruguayans took their turn to encircle the referee, understandably angry as well as confused as everyone in the stadium and at home was at what the official scoreboard soon confirmed to be a barefaced reversal by a referee who had caved in under pressure. An increasingly volatile situation threatened to erupt, so it was to his credit that Uruguayan captain Gastón Faber opted against joining the rabble and instead stepped in to ensure that his team-mates did not completely lose their heads. Whilst the Danubio midfielder no doubt had an eye on avoiding suspensions for the final stage of the competition – something the Venezuelans had no reason to worry about – he nevertheless did an admirable job of taking some sting out of a potentially poisonous atmosphere and ensuring none of his compatriots descended to Murillo-levels of intimidation.

Nevertheless, Uruguay can feel justifiably aggrieved as replays show beyond dispute that, rather than being fouled, Escorcia completely misjudged the dipping cross that Ale rose to head in. Whether or not he was seriously hurt on his way down is a separate issue, though it seems unlikely.

Thus, it remains to be seen what, if any, punishments will be meted out on the Venezuelan players and the officials, though it would be a considerable surprise if at least Jhon Murillo and the referee avoid any disciplinary action.

Ultimately, from a Venezuelan perspective, this fiasco did take some gloss off what was a much-improved performance following three straight defeats. However, coming at the end of their participation in a tournament in which they had received four red cards in as many games and frequently allowed ill-discipline to overshadow their talents, it was in many ways fitting.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical