Argentina 2001: Domestic bliss for the Albiceleste
With a highly flexible 3-5-2 formation, José Pekerman's Argentina dominated from start to finish and ran out deserving winners of this tournament with seven wins from seven games. The young Albiceleste played with great maturity throughout, banging in goals almost at will (27 in all) and delighting the partisan home crowds. Most column inches were devoted to Javier Saviola who finished the tournament as top scorer (11 goals) and diminutive midfield general Andres D'Alessandro, who imposed himself in each and every match.
For the first time in the history of this tournament, two African sides reached the last four, with Ghana making the Final and Egypt finishing third. The Black Satellites from Ghana played some inspired football to finish top of Group F ahead of France and Paraguay, before beating Ecuador, Brazil and Egypt to reach the Final. Emmanuel Afranie's side employed their physical game to great effect and were devastating on the counter-attack, as forwards Derek Boateng and Michael Essien used their lightning pace to crack holes in opposing defences. This was Ghana's second appearance in the final after 1993, when they lost to Brazil (2-1).
After a shaky start, Egypt emerged as the tournament's real surprise package. Shawky Gharib's men followed a lacklustre 0-0 draw with Jamaica by getting on the wrong end of a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of eventual winners Argentina. But the Young Pharaohs picked themselves up and proved their mental strength by downing Finland to qualify for the last sixteen. Two skilful and tactically mature performances saw them brush past the USA and the Netherlands to reach the semi-final, with strike duo Reda Shehata and Mohamed El Yamany turning in particularly impressive performances.
Player of the Tournament:
Pocket sized Javier Saviola's guile and clinical finishing made him the undisputed player of the tournament. "El conejo" (the rabbit) netted 11 times, including two hat tricks and two braces to make him the competition's all-time top scorer ahead of Brazilian Adailton (10 goals in 1997). The footballing world was quick to react and the youngster was soon on his way from River Plate to join Barcelona in Spain's La Liga.
Andres D'Alessandro (ARG), Javier Saviola (ARG), Kaka (BRA), Djibril Cissé (FRA), Philippe Mexes (FRA), Derek Boateng (GHA), DaMarcus Beasley (USA), Landon Donovan (USA), ...
Argentina 2001 stats
149 (av.: 2.87)
Argentina, 27 goals
Top 3 goalscorers:
1- Javier Saviola (ARG), 11 goals
2- Adriano (BRA), Djibril Cissé (FRA), 6 goals
Buenos Aires, Còrdoba, Mendoza, Rosario, Salta and Mar del Plata
506,320 (Final: 32,000)
Egypt and Paraguay finished up with exactly the same goal difference; both conceded eight goals and scored 11 before going out at the semi-final stage.