Tag Archives: Uruguay 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20

Uruguay – 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 Uruguay, who finished top of both the initial Group B as well as the final group stage (also known as the Hexagonal), thus winning their eighth championship. 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)

uruguayflag Uruguay

Tournament Summary

Fabián Coito’s men made a cautious start to the tournament with two draws, before a couple of wins saw them breeze their way to the top of Group B. Subsequently, three impressive consecutive wins in the Hexagonal led to them being viewed by all observers as overwhelming favourites for the title and though Venezuela emphatically delayed their crowning, they nevertheless clinched the trophy with a victory against Ecuador. Overall, they undoubtedly had the most reliable side which featured two of the tournament’s very best attacking players; they utilised their squad rather effectively and have several other players worth keeping an eye on.

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

Top Two Talents

nicolasdelacruz

Nicolás De La Cruz (Attacking-midfielder, No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay)

Based on the consistency of his performances, this versatile right-footed attacking-midfielder was arguably the player of the tournament, featuring in all nine Uruguay games and starting eight of them.

Taking on the role of captain when Rodrigo Amaral was not on the field, De La Cruz actually began the tournament in less than auspicious fashion, embarrassingly seeing his dinked Panenka-esque penalty against Venezuela easily stopped by one unfooled glove of the virtually upright goalkeeper. Some felt his spot-kick approach was that of a youngster absorbed in his own hype, but instead of mentally crumbling he showed great character to confidently dispatch another penalty in the following 3-3 draw with Argentina. In the Hexagonal phase, he would go on to showcase his considerable shooting abilities by scoring a phenomenal swerving long-range strike in a 3-0 win against Argentina as well as once more keeping his nerve with a spot-kick in another 3-0 victory, this time against Colombia.  Aside from these three goals, De La Cruz came close from more than one free-kick, hitting the post against Brazil and also regularly looked to set up his team-mates via an admirably eclectic range of forward balls and crosses, from both set-pieces as well as open play. Had some of his team-mates displayed greater composure he could well have bagged far more than just the two assists. Nevertheless, the first of these was a delivery from a left-sided free-kick that was knocked home against Bolivia and the other was a cleverly dinked ball over the top of the defence which led to the second goal in the title-clinching match with Ecuador.

Being the younger brother of Monterrey’s Carlos Sánchez, earner of over 25 Uruguay caps and formerly of Argentina’s River Plate, De La Cruz comes from promising stock. Though a rumour that Luis Suárez advised Barcelona to sign him up has since been dismissed by the Uruguayan all-time top-scorer himself, this 19-year-old nevertheless stands in good stead to have a solid club career and perhaps even emulate his hermano.

rodrigoamaral2

Rodrigo Amaral (Attacking-midfielder/Forward, No. 10, Nacional)

Perhaps serving as evidence of his prodigious talent, this rampaging left-footed attacker was one of several individuals to have also played at the 2015 Under-20 tournament, when he would have been just 17 years old. Given this solid experience in what was a very disciplined and exciting Uruguay side, it was a surprise when he started on the bench against Venezuela. However, he would go on put on the captain’s armband and convince that he may just be the most naturally gifted player in the competition.

In the subsequent match against Argentina, he received a start and announced himself early on to purring talent-spotters the world over by scoring an unstoppable golazo from over 25 yards out on the inside-left. Subsequently, he found the back of the net in his next four games, with one these goals being an even more impressive long-range belter, this time coming after a turn from 30 yards out in a 2-1 win against Brazil in the Hexagonal, licking the post on the way in. His other goals were a penalty in a 2-0 victory against Peru, a close-range finish squeezed in at the near post in a 3-0 win against Bolivia and, on the first day of the Hexagonal, a low header from a cross to complete the 3-0 rout against Argentina. Ultimately, he would finish as the tournament’s joint top-scorer with five goals.

He has been compared to Wayne Rooney and it’s not hard to see why as he has a tendency to come from deep then bustle his way forward, is not afraid to shoot and is also very much capable of playing in team-mates; he’s also not bad at set-pieces, firing in several testing shots and crosses in his nine games. However, despite featuring in every Uruguay match, he only started six of these and, no doubt raising the alarm bells of many scouts, did not complete the full 90 minutes once, instead typically being on the field between 55-70 minutes. Weight and fitness issues have been consistent problems for Amaral who, despite claiming more than once during the tournament to have silenced his critics, has himself conceded that he has a tendency to over-eat and could do with losing about 3kg. Indeed, somewhat uncharitably, over the past few weeks it was common for observers, including a Venezuelan commentator moments before Amaral was set to lift the trophy, to refer to him as ‘el gordo’ (the fat one).

This may partly explain why he barely played for Nacional last season (despite regularly doing so the year before) and also why no substantial transfer rumours have been doing the rounds. However, since the tournament ended he has professed a desire to play in Italy and, very recently, moves have been made by an agent to activate his surprisingly low release clause (reportedly US$3 million). Thus, with his reputation enhanced and several new eye-grabbing highlight clips added to his portfolio, it is hard to see why many Serie A sides wouldn’t wish to take the minor risk and help him maintain an elite physique. After all, the rewards could be bountiful.

uruguayflag More Uruguayan Talents

It was very much a team effort from Uruguay, as they comfortably finished five points clear of their nearest rivals in the Hexagonal and, overall, scored the joint-highest number of goals as well as conceded the second-lowest amount. Thus, there are many candidates who could be put forward as their third most impressive player, though not a clear choice. Nevertheless, from their well-organised, sturdy defence, towering and tenacious centre-back Agustín Rogel (No. 18, Nacional) caught the eye, even managing to knock home De La Cruz’s free-kick against Bolivia, though the five yellow cards (and thus, two suspensions) he picked up in seven games may be an aspect of his game worth working on.


It’s debatable whether the man ahead of him in a holding midfield role, Rodrigo Bentancur (No. 20, Boca Juniors, Argentina), lived up to the pre-tournament hype that stemmed from his already considerable experience at a high club level. However, though he picked up a red card in the first group stage, he also often played his part helping out the back four, notably overhead-kicking a clearance off the line in the first game against Venezuela. He formed a strong partnership with the lesser-heralded Carlos Benavidez (No. 8, Defensor Sporting) and did gradually grow into the tournament; attack-wise, he scored a cracking goal from just outside the area against Bolivia and also had a minor hand in one of the goals against Colombia. At the time of writing, he has recently been undergoing medical checks in Turin for his suitors, Juventus.


Slightly further upfield, left-sided midfielder Facundo Waller (No. 15, Plaza Colonia) also impressed in a more low-key manner than the likes of Amaral and De La Cruz and could well prove to be a very rewarding investment for any team seeking a creative workhorse with a cultured left foot. After an opening group stage in which he often put in some useful balls, it was in the Hexagonal when he really made his mark. First, he set up the two latter goals in the 3-0 win against Argentina (the first with a pass up the left flank, the second with a cross for Amaral), then in the next game he launched the ball forward for Matías Viña (No. 17, Nacional) to score the last-gasp winner against Brazil. He even got on the scoresheet himself with the opener in the 3-0 win against Colombia, scooping an effort from the edge of the area into the back of the net.


Otherwise, striker Nicolás Schiappacasse (No. 9, Atlético Madrid) impressed, though was slightly overshadowed by at least a few other players in his position from other nations. Nevertheless, he sometimes looked sharp and often got into good positions, scoring three goals (including clinical strikes against both Peru and, later in the Hexagonal, Colombia) and winning two penalties (not to mention a fair few free-kicks), one of which he took himself in the first group stage against Argentina and had saved, but was able to knock in at the second attempt. This prospect only turned 18 in January and, though he started his career at Montevideo’s River Plate, has already moved on to Atlético Madrid’s Under-19 side, where this season he has featured in the UEFA Youth League.


He didn’t receive as much game-time as Schiappacasse (who he is a mere day older than), but another attacker who may nevertheless be worth keeping an eye on is Joaquín Ardaiz (No. 7, Danubio). He was conspicuous in the group stage win over Bolivia, one of two games he started; he made a nuisance of himself from the off and perhaps could have put away at least one of his chances, one of which hit the post. However, he certainly made his mark when he was trusted to make his second start (from six appearances) in the crucial title-decider against Ecuador. He scored both goals in a 2-1 win, the first a capitalisation on a defensive howler and the second a confident finish from De La Cruz’s pass. A host of clubs, including Sporting Clube de Portugal, are reportedly monitoring him.


Briefly, left-back Mathías Olivera (No. 5, Club Atlético Atenas) often appeared rather reliable on the ball, frequently coming forward and even got on the scoresheet in the 3-0 win against Argentina; as he has recently been bought from Nacional by an agent and held somewhat curiously at a second division halfway-house, it appears a bigger move can’t be too far away.


Lastly, a note to mention that defender Santiago Bueno (No. 2, Barcelona Juvenil A) has earned a move to Barcelona out of this tournament, though he can’t really be said to have significantly stood out; indeed, he played only four games and one of these was to cover the suspended Rogel for the 3-0 hiding dished out by Venezuela.


If you would like to read about the best talents from the other nations, then click on the following links: Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina, 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

Ecuador 1-2 Uruguay (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 5, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 11 February 2017)

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

hexagonalendddd

(Source: Wikipedia)

Ecuador 1-2 Uruguay

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

In this title-deciding encounter, Uruguay were out the traps early and with relative comfort ultimately went on to clinch the championship by an impressive five points. They were gifted the lead after a mere five minutes when Ecuador defender Luis Segovia suicidally passed the ball inside his own area to Joaquín Ardaiz who gratefully tucked it away. Twenty minutes later Ardaiz virtually sealed the competition for Uruguay when he received a long ball and clinically struck it home. Now requiring three goals, though Ecuador did get forward they never really looked like realistically pulling off the comeback; they did nevertheless halve the deficit in the 66th minute when Herlin Lino managed to knock a forward ball past the goalkeeper. Ultimately however, it was Uruguay’s day and tournament; though it was a topsy-turvy 25 days and even Uruguay gave observers reasons to doubt them, they came through and can deservedly be called the best Under-20 nation in South America.

Talent Spotting

ecuadorflag Ecuador

They were outsiders to win the title and any game plan they had went out the window as soon as Luis Segovia (No. 21, El Nacional) gifted Uruguay their opening goal within five minutes. Going two behind after 26 minutes all but ensured the destination of the trophy though, to their minor credit, Ecuador did at least try to threaten the opposition defence throughout the game.

Indeed, unsurprisingly top-scorer Bryan Cabezas (No. 10, Atalanta, Italy) could be a threat, particularly early on. In the 13th minute he managed to gain some space and get a shot away from the edge of the area, which the Uruguayan goalkeeper uncomfortably spilt. Ecuador have several quality attack-minded players and so some have been afforded more opportunities than others in this tournament but here Wilter Ayoví (No. 8, Independiente Del Valle) caught the eye, coming close to scoring twice. Indeed, in the 19th minute he swung in a free-kick with his right boot from the left near the byline which had to be blocked out at the near post. Then, more notably three minutes later, he did well to capitalise on an error then twist and turn his way past two players before firing a shot from inside the area that was deflected just over for a corner. Into the second half, Ecuador did manage to provide a glimmer of hope for their fans when in the 66th minute a long ball from right-back Kevin Minda (No. 4, L.D.U. Quito) was deftly touched by Herlin Lino (No. 9, Barcelona SC, Ecuador) through the legs of the onrushing goalkeeper to make it 2-1. However, despite this, they struggled to put Uruguay under much more pressure, with an 82nd-minute free-kick from substitute Joao Rojas (No. 17, Emelec) that went hopelessly over being the closest they came to another goal.

Alas, the scoreline remained the same and Uruguay were crowned champions. Nevertheless, Ecuadorians can come away with much pride that they not only hosted an often exciting tournament but that their team was often the most entertaining side on show, managing to finish a very credible second and will be going to South Korea in May.

uruguayflag Uruguay

Though Ecuador never entirely gave up, Uruguay had effectively killed off the game within the opening half-hour. Indeed, they showed strength in depth by dropping at least a couple of their most impressive players and it was one of the stand-ins who was to score both of their goals. Indeed, Joaquín Ardaiz (No. 7, Danubio) took advantage of a hopeless defensive error in the fifth minute, before shielding the ball from another defender and then sliding home from inside the area. His second came in the 26th minute when Nicolás De La Cruz (No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay), arguably the most consistent top performer in the tournament, dinked a ball over a defender which Ardaiz confidently finished off.

Otherwise, Uruguay had a couple of other minor chances in the first half but it was after Ecuador pulled a goal back in the second period that they really further tested the opposition goalkeeper. Indeed, in the 69th minute, perhaps the most naturally talented player in the competition, Rodrigo Amaral (No. 10, Nacional, Uruguay), came off the bench and two minutes later had an opportunity to win the golden boot outright. Alas, though he curled this centrally placed free-kick well with his left peg, it ultimately went slightly wide; thus, after the game he had to share the top-scorer’s trophy with three other players who also scored five goals: Ecuador’s Bryan Cabezas and Argentina’s Marcelo Torres and Lautaro Martínez. Five minutes after Amaral’s free-kick, another set-piece was well-struck from the middle of the park; this time it was De La Cruz over the ball and he did well to curl a right-footed effort which had to be parried out.

Nevertheless, though they didn’t build on their early lead, they didn’t really need to, with the likes of Agustín Rogel (No. 18, Nacional) at the back instead largely effectively frustrating and hassling opponents off the ball.

When the final whistle blew, the Uruguayan joy was palpable as they won their first South American Under-20 tournament since 1981 (their eighth overall) and kept up a very impressive recent youth record. For many fans, this will have gone some way to making up for the narrow defeat suffered in the decisive final game by a similarly outstanding side to Argentina on home soil two years ago in front of over 65,000 people. Now, this generation of players from this small over-achieving nation shall go with Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina to the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea in May with a spring in their collective step, no doubt believing that they can yet again upset the odds – and this time on a much grander scale.

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

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

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Uruguay 0-3 Venezuela (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 4, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 8 February 2017)

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

hexagonal8217

(Source: Wikipedia)

Uruguay 0-3 Venezuela

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

Despite being billed as Uruguay’s title-winning match, it ended up as a rout delivered by a very impressive Venezuela side, which now puts the latter in with an outside chance of nabbing the championship on Saturday. Indeed, they were well worth their victory as they edged proceedings from the off, even if Uruguay did end up having the two best chances of the first half – both of these came shortly before the interval, with one being a header against the crossbar. After the break in the 67th minute, Venezuela also rattled the woodwork with a header and, barely seconds afterwards, they took the lead courtesy of Josua Mejías’s low strike from an angle. Uruguay were still reeling from this four minutes later when Ronaldo Chacón was fouled in the area and Yeferson Soteldo converted the penalty for 2-0. Just five minutes later, roles were reversed as a crucial victory was wrapped up when Soteldo was fouled in the area and Chacón stepped up to make it 3-0 from the spot. Such was the delirium, even Antonio Romero receiving Venezuela’s fifth red card in eight games in the last minute could not sour the evening for the boys in burgundy.

Talent Spotting
uruguayflag Uruguay

Suffering their very first defeat of the competition and thus causing sudden, unanticipated doubt upon the ultimate destination of the tournament trophy, Uruguay had very little joy when going forward in this game. Indeed, they were continually thwarted by Venezuela’s well-organised defence, with their best opportunities coming one after the other towards the end of the opening half.

The first occurred in the 42nd minute when, from a free-kick on the inside-right, Rodrigo Amaral (No. 10, Nacional, Uruguay) surprised opponents by dinking the ball with his left into the area; this found Nicolás Schiappacasse (No. 9, Atlético Madrid) in space on the right yet he was smartly denied a goal by Wuilker Fariñez, who blocked his shot wide. From the resulting corner, Uruguay came even closer to breaking the deadlock as the cross of Nicolás De La Cruz (No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay) was headed hard against the crossbar by left-back Mathías Olivera (No. 5, Club Atlético Atenas).

Otherwise, De La Cruz had a long range shot easily saved and put in another testing cross that caused some problems, but this was very much an off-day for Uruguay. They will urgently need to compose themselves and regroup ahead of Saturday’s clash with Ecuador as defeat could see the hosts instead claim the trophy – even a draw would prove insufficient if Venezuela gain a final-day victory.

venezuelaflag Venezuela

With Manchester City-bound captain Yangel Herrera suspended along with two other regulars and three of the coaching staff including manager Rafael Dudamel, there were fears that Venezuela could implode. Instead, however, they produced a performance of sublime maturity as they were able to keep the heavy tournament favourites at bay before inflicting their first defeat upon them.

Two men who played a role in all three goals were Yeferson Soteldo (No. 10, Huachipato, Chile) and Ronaldo Chacón (No. 11, Caracas FC). Before they made their mark, they had been involved in some other notable attacks, particularly Soteldo. Indeed, in the 35th minute he did great on the right to take on a player before putting in a fine ball for Sergio Córdova (No. 23, Caracas FC), though the latter’s acrobatic scissor-kick went a couple of yards wide. Later, in the 55th minute, Soteldo did well over on the left where he ran into the area and cut the ball back from the byline but Chacón couldn’t quite finish it off, instead winning a corner.

12 minutes later, however, they made more telling involvements. Indeed, some 35 yards out on the right, Soteldo whipped in a fine free-kick that, from just inside the area, Chacón rattled against the crossbar with a header. Subsequently, the ball was then cleared before being knocked back into the path of Chacón on the inside-left some 35 yards out and he slid in Josua Mejías (No. 17, Carabobo FC) inside the area who, in turn, slipped the ball past the goalkeeper from an angle. Plucky Ronaldo Peña (No. 9, Las Palmas, Spain) may have celebrated as if it was his goal, but make no mistake, it was Mejías who gave Venezuela the lead. Just four minutes later, Córdova’s cross for Chacón in the middle of the area led to the latter being hauled down; thus, Soteldo stepped up to convert the penalty and double his country’s lead. Barely five minutes later, the roles were reversed as Soteldo dashed into the area only to be crudely brought down for a spot-kick which Chacón put away to complete the 3-0 demolition.

Otherwise, earlier Venezuela had a few minor chances to break the deadlock in the first half. In the 26th minute, the impressive right-back Ronald Hernández (No. 20, Zamora FC) did well on the right, taking on a defender and then shielding the ball from him to get a shot away from the right edge of the area, which the goalkeeper saved low. Four minutes later, Ronaldo Lucena (No. 16, Zamora FC) put in a good cross from the right which, in space, Peña got a head to, though this went comfortably wide. Lastly, three minutes later in the 33rd minute Lucena’s corner was headed goalwards by Williams Velásquez (No. 2, Estudiantes de Caracas) and hit Peña but though he was only four yards out, opponents swarmed and made it difficult for him to adjust his body to get a shot in.

Nevertheless, Mejías, Soteldo and Chacón were to be the goalscoring heroes and ensure that, barring a five-goal defeat at the hands of Argentina on Saturday, they have already qualified for the Under-20 World Cup. It is a tremendous achievement for this well-organised and talented crop of players – the first time since 2009 that Venezuela will have done so – and if they instead beat Argentina with the Ecuador-Uruguay game also going their way, they will turn even more heads by winning this competition for the first ever time. A nation can dream.

The two other games played on Hexagonal Matchday 4 were Ecuador vs Colombia and Brazil vs Argentina – 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

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

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

group5217

(Source: Wikipedia)

Uruguay 3-0 Colombia

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

Uruguay booked their place at the U-20 World Cup with a comfortable victory against Colombia. They had the bulk of the chances and first took advantage of one in the 41st minute when Facundo Waller dinked an effort over the goalkeeper from outside the area. The second goal came in the 65th minute when striker Nicolás Schiappacasse clinically finished off a fine move. Colombia’s best chance of note came just over five minutes afterwards but this was squandered and thus, five minutes after a red card was awarded to Cafeteros’ Jhon Balanta, Uruguay put the result beyond doubt in the 83rd minute. Indeed, Nicolás De La Cruz was fouled in the area and then picked himself up to make it 3-0 with his spot-kick. Thus, Uruguay will be off to South Korea in May and currently lead this competition handsomely with a 100 per cent record after three Hexagonal games.

Talent Spotting

uruguayflag Uruguay

Nicolás De La Cruz (No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay) again shone and the rumours of Barcelona watching him appear entirely plausible to anyone who has seen him during this tournament. He scored his third goal of the competition with an 83rd-minute penalty which sneaked in off the post and he also had at least a couple of other attacking moments of note in the game. For example, in the 33rd minute, from a second opportunity to do so, he put in a perfect cross for Carlos Benavidez (No. 8, Defensor Sporting), yet from barely four yards out the latter headed over. Later on in the 59th minute, De La Cruz set up another great chance, this time from the right as he slid the ball to Agustín Canobbio (No. 19, Fénix) who struck from an angle inside the area, though saw his shot parried.

Subsequently, the ball fell to Facundo Waller (No. 15, Plaza Colonia) who perhaps should have scored, but instead sliced his shot over. However, he had at least already managed to get on the scoresheet when he got the opening goal after 41 minutes; here, Rodrigo Bentancur (No. 20, Boca Juniors, Argentina) slid Waller the ball on the edge of the area and, benefiting from a slight bobble, he scooped a strike over the opposition goalkeeper to make it 1-0.

The second goal after 65 minutes was a fine team move involving many of the players mentioned so far. Indeed, on the halfway line, De La Cruz helped the ball on to Bentancur who, in turn, gave it to Canobbio some 30 yards out. He played in Nicolás Schiappacasse (No. 9, Atlético Madrid) on the left side of the area who did well to first control with his left, then clinically strike home with his right boot to make it 2-0.

Schiappacasse also had a role in Uruguay’s first opportunity of the game in the third minute, dinking back a pass to Rodrigo Amaral (No. 10, Nacional, Uruguay) into the area, but the latter’s effort from an angle ended up in the side-netting. However, not too long afterwards, Amaral did create a couple of opportunities for team-mates, first of all Agustín Rogel (No. 18, Nacional) from a fine 11th-minute free-kick, though the latter didn’t make a proper connection with his header and it went over. Then, in the 19th minute, Amaral slid forward a nice pass for Bentancur, yet despite being around the edge of the area and managing to gain space from his marker, his shot was fired over the bar.

colombia Colombia

Perhaps it was the deflation of losing in the last minute against Argentina that affected their performance here but Colombia never really got going and hardly created any chances of note.

17-year-old golden boy Juan ‘El Cucho’ Hernández (No. 10, América de Cali, on loan from Granada, Spain) perhaps had his side’s best chance, though this didn’t occur until the 71th minute. Previously, he had managed one of very few other attempts when, in the 51st minute, he controlled the ball inside the area before striking comfortably wide. The effort with 19 minutes was somewhat more substantial, with Kevin Balanta (No. 8, Deportivo Cali) dancing past some opponents before sliding the ball to Hernández on the left inside the area, but alas, he struck his shot hard into the side-netting when the circumstances demanded a goal.

The low possibility of Colombia getting back into the game wasn’t helped by the red card awarded to Jhon Balanta (No. 18, Universitario Popayán) with 12 minutes remaining. They did, however, have one last shot in stoppage-time when Ever Valencia (No. 13, Atlético Bucaramanga) took aim from 25 yards out but alas, the Uruguayan goalkeeper did well to parry wide.

Thus, Colombia must regroup, though with just one point from three games, their World Cup qualification prospects are not looking promising.

The two other games played on Hexagonal Matchday 3 were Brazil vs Venezuela and Ecuador vs Argentina – talent-spotting articles have now been published for both of 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

Uruguay 2-1 Brazil (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 2, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 2 February 2017)

The second game which took place on Hexagonal Matchday 2 of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw Uruguay face Brazil. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

groupstage020217

(Source: Wikipedia)

Uruguay 2-1 Brazil

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 2 February 2017 (YouTube)

With a stoppage-time winner, Uruguay came from behind to beat Brazil to become the only side in the Hexagonal left with a 100 per cent record. Things had looked quite positive for their opponents in the 23rd minute when a David Neres pass found Guilherme Arana, who slid home past the goalkeeper for the lead. However, Uruguay got back into the match and were to have the majority of the chances; when they did find an equaliser, it came on the hour courtesy of a phenomenal long-range golazo from Rodrigo Amaral. Subsequently, Uruguay searched for the winner and were aided by two Brazil defenders getting sent off: Lucas Cunha in 67th minute and Lyanco in the 90th. Not too long after the second one, Facundo Waller hoisted a ball back upfield which Matías Viña managed to beat the goalkeeper to and dramatically win the game for Uruguay, who sit rather pretty atop the Hexagonal with six points.

Talent Spotting

uruguayflag Uruguay

Once again, praise can be heaped upon Rodrigo Amaral (No. 10, Nacional, Uruguay), who not only scored again but was more involved than he was against Argentina. In the 15th minute, he played through Nicolás Schiappacasse (No. 9, Atlético Madrid) into the area, though the latter’s shot from a slight angle was blocked out. Another chance was to be created from the subsequent corner as this was played in by Amaral and headed by defender Agustín Rogel (No. 18, Nacional) against the top of the crossbar. However, if you want something done properly, then sometimes you’ve got to do it yourself, as Amaral spectacularly demonstrated in the 60th minute to get Uruguay level. After Schiappacasse headed on a pass centrally some 30 yards out, Amaral quickly put the ball onto his left and let rip with a sensational golazo that went in off the far post – he is again joint top-scorer on five goals with Argentina’s Marcelo Torres. This goal didn’t stop him trying to get his team-mates on the scoresheet, however, as in the 70th minute his free-kick found the head of Rodrigo Bentancur (No. 20, Boca Juniors, Argentina), but alas, his effort went wide. Eight minutes later, perhaps a better chance was provided when he slid the ball to Schiappacasse on the left inside the area; the goalkeeper came out and the striker managed the squeeze the ball past him in to the middle, but unfortunately for the Uruguay striker, a defender’s block directed the ball back to the goalkeeper.

Nicolás De La Cruz (No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay) was another man who wasn’t short of attempts to both score and gain an assist. His first effort came in the 11th minute when, from the left about 15 yards from the byline, he tried to curl an impossible right-footed shot; to his credit, he got a fair bit of power on it as it dipped awkwardly for the goalkeeper, who tipped over. In the 33rd minute, he controlled a ball on the edge of the area but his shot, always rising, went over. Ten minutes later, Schiappacasse nabbed the ball just outside the area and gave it to De La Cruz who, from the edge of the dee, curled a left-footed shot low that the goalkeeper saved. Much later in the 67th minute immediately after Brazil had suffered their first dismissal, De La Cruz took the subsequent free-kick from an inside-right position just outside the area; he managed to get a wicked bend on it with his right foot, causing the goalkeeper to tip over. Seven minutes later, José Rodríguez (No. 4, Danubio) on the right played a ball towards the area that deflected back to De La Cruz on the edge who whacked a left-footed effort that went not too far over. The last chance of note De La Cruz had was also the one with which he came closest; indeed, in the 86th minute, he won a free-kick about 22 yards out on the inside-right and managed to hit a right-footed effort that came back off the near post.

One other, lesser moment involving De La Cruz was the good work he did in the 75th minute shrugging off a challenge then passing on the edge of the area to a team-mate who had a low shot comfortably saved. This compatriot was Facundo Waller (No. 15, Plaza Colonia) who, once again, made some less ostentatious but all-the-same vital contributions. In the 71st minute he struck an audacious effort from 35 yards that dipped tantalisingly, though ultimately down into the roof of the net. However, in stoppage-time he truly came up with some goods as, from the halfway line, he hoisted the ball back to the edge of the area, which found Matías Viña (No. 17, Nacional). Profiting from a dreadfully out-of-place goalkeeper, Viña was able to easily slide home for the win and cause pandemonium amongst his team-mates, both on the pitch and at the sidelines.

brazilflag Brazil

New Ajax-signing David Neres (No. 11, Ajax) had a couple of moments of note. The first one occurred after nine minutes when a team-mate outjumped the Uruguayan goalkeeper to a chipped ball and it fell to Neres who controlled with his upper body before volleying wildly over, when there was only really a defender in his way. However, he made up for this some 15 minutes later when, from a central position, he played a fine left-footed through-ball that Guilherme Arana (No. 6, Corinthians) latched onto and then stroked home to give Brazil the lead. This was the second consecutive game in which Arana scored with Neres playing a role in his goal.

Compared to Uruguay though, Brazil barely had any other chances worth mentioning, with perhaps one minor exception being a 79th minute pass from Lucas Paqueta (No. 10, Flamengo) to Léo Jabá (No. 19, Corinthians) in the area, though his shot from an angle on the right went into the side-netting.

Otherwise, Brazil will be concerned that they will be going into their next game without two of their regular defenders, following the red cards to Lucas Cunha (No. 3, Braga, Portugal) and Lyanco (No. 4, São Paulo). Another worry will be the goalkeeping position, as the usual first-choice Caíque was dropped, presumably for some shaky moments in the preceding game as well as during some others. However, his replacement Lucas Perri (No. 1, São Paulo) was surely to blame for the Uruguay equaliser, as he was hopelessly out of position when Waller’s ball was pumped up to the edge of his area. Thus, a decision has to be made.

The two other games played on Hexagonal Matchday 2 were Colombia vs Argentina and Ecuador vs Venezuela – talent-spotting articles have now been published for 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