Canada 1987: USSR best by far
The USSR were head-and-shoulders above the rest at the FIFA World U-16 Championship Canada 1987. Better prepared than their rivals both physically and mentally, they eased their way through the group phase with a draw against holders Nigeria, a 4-2 trouncing of South American champions Bolivia and a 7-0 thrashing of CONCACAF kings Mexico. The USSR surprised many with their explosive attack, but they had class throughout the ranks: a quiet but efficient keeper well protected by a ferocious defence, and a clever midfield quartet providing a constant supply of chances for their hungry finishers. A 4-4-2 formation was perfectly suited to the burgeoning talents of playmakers Anatoli Mushinka and Mirdajail Kasymov. France, Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria were dispatched in the knockout stage, and the USSR picked up one of the last titles in their history.
As is so often the case at this age level, the African nations had an impressive tournament. Côte d'Ivoire fell to the USSR at the semi-final stage, and Nigeria went the same way in the Final. The semi-final quartet was completed by the last remaining European superpower - Italy.
Côte d'Ivoire were this year's surprise package. Playing intelligent football based around a 4-3-3 formation giving free rein to some excellent individual talents, the Eléphants cadets finished top of Group B, ahead of South Korea, Ecuador and the USA. Moussa Traore was a constant menace up front and looked set to shoot his team to glory until the USSR finally shackled him down. The Africans must have been happy with an excellent third-place finish though, achieved thanks to a prestigious 2-1 win over Italy.
Player of the Tournament:
Nigerian Phillip Osundo was quite simply outstanding - far and away the best player at Canada '87. This kid had the lot: mobility, power and vision, all working for the collective good. Osundo's two goals in a 3-2 win against Bolivia qualified his side for the knockout stages and his performance in the Final was nothing short of breathtaking. Although his efforts proved not quite enough for his side in the end, his nomination for the Golden Ball by the Technical Study Group was never in doubt.
Marco Echeverry (BOL), Raúl Noriega (ECU), Emmanuel Petit (FRA), Fabio Gallo (ITA), Moussa Traore (CIV), Phillip Osundo (NGA), Anatoli Mushinka (URS), Mirdjalil Kasymov (URS), Youri Nikiforov (URS).
Canada 1987 stats:
- Côte d'Ivoire
82 (2.56 per match)
USSR, 21 goals
Top 3 goalscorers:
1. Moussa Traore (Côte d'Ivoire), 5 goals
2. Yuri Nikiforov (URS), 5 goals
3. Philip Osundo (NGA), 4 goals
Montreal, Saint John (N.B.), St. John's (N.F.), Toronto.