Group B: Favourites cruise home
As the dust settles on Group B of the FIFA U-17 World Championship Peru 2005, which produced 17 goals in six games, FIFA.com looks at how Turkey sealed top spot, how Mexico's stars won a host of admirers and how Australia and Uruguay were left to rue what might have been.
1 - Turkey, 9pts
Abdullah Acvi's charges flew out of the blocks in their first appearance at the highest level of U-17 competition, stamping their mark on the tournament with three wins in three games. Much to the chagrin of their opponents, Turkey proved themselves to be masters of the late goal, with the decisive strike in each of their three games coming in the last ten minutes. Midfielders Nuri Sahin of Borussia Dortmund, Caner Erkin, and two-goal leading scorer Deniz Yilmaz were particularly impressive, combining skill, a willingness to attack, and an eye for goal. "We're confident in our own ability, we've worked really hard to get this far and we're determined to grasp this opportunity with both hands," explained Acvi, whose team lead the tournament charts with a whopping 60 strikes on goal. Turkey's three wins thus far came at the expense of Australia (1:0), Uruguay (3:2) and a much-changed Mexican side (2:1). Coach Acvi had this to say after qualifying: "We been experimenting with different tactics, we're a very attacking side and we're reaping the rewards. We're not European Champions for nothing and we're getting better and better." That being the case, China will have their work cut out in the quarter-finals.
2 - Mexico, 6 pts
Under the guidance of coach Jesús Ramirez, a potent blend of teamwork, coordination, and individual attacking flair has seen El Tricolor fully justify their billing amongst the pre-tournament favourites and book their place in the quarter finals after just two games. "Clearly, we're aiming to become world champions. We've been preparing for this for a long time, and we won't let anybody stand in our way," a supremely confident Ramirez told FIFA.com. Grabbing most of the headlines are forwards Giovanni Dos Santos and Carlos Vela, whose performances in their two outings have earned them the admiration of fans and pundits alike. With his Brazilian roots, few teams can handle the pace and movement of Barcelona starlet Dos Santos, while Chivas de Guadalajara striker Vela is coolness personified in front of goal. "It's true that they are our matchwinners, but it's the great players behind them that give them the freedom to play," explained Ramirez. As they charged towards the quarter-finals, Mexico swept aside Uruguay (2:0) and Australia (3:0), before paying the price for fielding a weakened side against Turkey (1:2). The next round sees them take on a familiar foe in the form of Costa Rica.
3 - Australia, 3 pts
The Aussies may have led the group in terms of the number of appearances in a FIFA U-17 World Championship, but out on the pitch they once again failed to shine. Not even the experience of coach Ange Postecoglou, in his third consecutive appearance at this tournament, was enough to guide his charges through to the next round. "We couldn't impose our style of play in the first two games, we created chances but were punished by a lack of concentration at the back," recalled Postecoglou sadly. Nevertheless, the Oceania champions signed off in style, showing commitment, flair and opportunism to overcome Uruguay and put an end to a run of six straight defeats at this tournament. "It was really important for us not to leave the country on the back of three defeats, that's why we really enjoyed the performance against Uruguay," the coach explained. Many observers were surprised at Australia's decision to shun a purely physical approach, preferring to rely on the vision of Kaz Patafta and the skill of Robbie Kruse and Nathan Burns. The campaign began with defeats against Turkey (0:1) and Mexico (0:3) before the final game win over Uruguay (2:1).
4 - Uruguay, 0 pts
For all coach Gustavo Ferrín's claims that his team were not a surprise entry in the competition, those who had backed the Celeste to make an impact were left with egg on their faces. Three defeats in as many first round games, with just three goals scored and seven conceded saw the South Americans' dream end in tatters. "Being eliminated isn't a fair reward for the good football we played. We played well at various stages throughout the first phase, but we weren't able to finish off our good work and so we've ended up on the first plane home," was coach Ferrín's verdict on events. Amongst the high points for Uruguay were the battling displays of Gerardo Vonder Putten, the audacity of the diminutive Enzo Scorza, and the power of Elías Figueroa, top scorer with two goals. Despite the defeats against Mexico (0:2), Turkey (2:3) and Australia (1:2), the Uruguayan coach believes that the experience has been worthwhile. "I'm looking beyond mere sporting achievement. In the time we've spent preparing the lads for this tournament, they've learned the importance of eating properly and how to behave like true professionals. That to me is more important than winning or losing."