Bronze up for grabs as South Americans clash
Finland 2003’s third-place match will be yet another meeting between two old South American rivals as beaten semi-finalists Colombia and Argentina battle it out for bronze in Helsinki. The two will face off in one last clash of blood brothers, with pride and respect in their hearts. The 30 August meeting also marks the first time two Conmebol teams have met in a FIFA U-17 third-place play-off.
With tears in his eyes and sitting beside Brazil boss Paqueta in the guts of Tampere’s Ratina stadium, Colombian coach Eduardo Lara expressed his unreserved pride after losing out on a spot in the Final. “We played against a great team and Brazil deserve their place in the Final,” he said as two-goal Brazilian hero Abuda looked and listened respectfully. “But we have done a very important thing by reaching the semi-finals. This is the farthest any Colombian team has ever gone in any FIFA finals. And I cannot express in words how proud I am of my boys.”
“It was such an honour to be one of the three (South American) teams in the final four. I am full of pride as a South American right now.”
“I am tremendously proud to have been one of the three South American teams that reached the final four here in Finland,” said Final-bound Paqueta after the 0-2 semi-final victory over Colombia. “The fact that all three sides made it this far says a great deal about the way the continent’s football is progressing at the moment - and a generation of fine players will be moving up from these teams.” p>With Brazil flying the “New World” standard in an intriguing Final with European powers Spain, Argentina and Colombia will do their best to continue their impressive campaigns at Finland 2003 with a win in the consolation match for a spot on the podium.
Finland 2003 was the first-ever FIFA U-17 World Championship where no African teams reached the knockout rounds. And it was also the first time that all three South American qualifiers climbed to take hold of three of the four semi-final spots – indicating an impressive continental improvement at the U-17 level.
“It’s certainly true that throughout South America there is a lot of work being put in to develop junior players – Bolivia (South American qualifying tournament) was an extremely good competition,” said Argentine coach Hugo Tocalli.
“Not only are the three teams here at the finals great sides,” Paqueta added after the semi-final. “But a team like Uruguay – who deserved a spot at the finals after their wonderful play in Bolivia – are getting better and better at the junior level as well.”
Argentina – tipped by many as favourites for Finland 2003 glory – conceded their only goals of the competition in an exciting and at times over-tough semi-final against Spain on the artificial turf in Helsinki’s Töölö stadium.
Saturday’s match will be the second FIFA U-17 finals in succession that Tocalli finds himself in the third-place match, as his Albiceleste lost out to Burkina Faso 2-0 at Trinidad &Tobago 2001.
With three banged past them – including a late winner in a draining golden-goal extra time session, one will wonder where their confidence and energy will come from in the third-place match. But with a tremendous amount of mutual respect, up against powerful neighbours Colombia, the Helsinki faithful can be fairly sure that the third-place affair between two proud friends will be anything but friendly.