Manicler hat-trick helps Argentina go out on a high
Hat-trick hero Ludmila Manicler scored three goals and created the fourth as Argentina triumphed 4-0 over Congo DR at the Petrovsky stadium in St Petersburg.
Pride alone was at stake in the final Group D encounter, as neither side had a chance of reaching the FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship Russia 2006 quarter-finals after both lost their fixtures against France and the USA .
After a bright and evenly-matched opening phase, the South Americans struck three times in the space of four minutes to effectively settle the issue with little more than quarter of an hour played. On 13 minutes, Florencia Quinones' astute long pass found a well-postioned Maria Potassa, who skilfully controlled the ball and squared for Manicler to slot home the opener (1-0, 13').
Congo's Mamie Buazo was picking the ball out of the net again just two minutes later after Manicler returned the favour, dropping a pass into Potassa's path for the striker to sprint clear and coolly beat the on-rushing keeper (2-0, 15'). Argentine tails were well and truly up by now, and only two more minutes elapsed before Manicler collected another fine Quinones' pass and blasted home the third (3-0, 17').
The visibly demoralised Congolese, who spent much of the half remonstrating with each other, briefly steadied the ship, but could only keep the Argentines out until the stroke of half time. Manicler was in truly irresistible form and duly completed her hat-trick from close range in a goalmouth scramble after the Congo defence failed to deal with a corner (4-0, 45').
To no-one's great surprise, the on-song striker was named Player of the Match for her impressive efforts by FIFA's Technical Study Group. "Obviously I'm delighted about scoring three goals today, and I'm thrilled we've won the match," she grinned. "I hope we can build on this performance at the next world championship."
Bonganya: Argentina 'exceptionally good'
Congo coach Poly Bonganya was generous in his praise of Manicler and Co, admitting that his side had been well beaten."Argentina were exceptionally good today and showed total belief," he said, "especially in the first half. At the end of the day, they deserved to win
The Congolese did at least emerge for the second half determined to make partial amends and gave a much more convincing display, though without ever truly threatening the Argentine defence. Roared on by a seemingly indefatigable clutch of fans, they piled forwards in search of a consolation strike, but the closest they came was Oliva Amani's header wide of the target from six yards.
Argentina responded with a sweeping move to the opposite end of the field. Buazo raced from her goal to whip the ball off Potassa's toes, but the clearance landed at the feet of Maria Blanco 45 yards from goal. The midfielder let fly and the effort sailed over the heads of the defence and the rapidly back-pedalling keeper, but Nanu Mafuala was on hand to hack clear off the line.
The one blot on Argentina's copybook came when Gabriela Chavez was dismissed on 69 minutes for retaliating against Tresorine Nzuzi, but even finishing the match with 10 men couldn't spoil the mood of the Albiceleste coach.
"I'm very happy with the result and our performance today," said Jose Carlos Borrello . "It's just a shame we couldn't have played like that against France and the USA."
Player of the Match: LUDMILA MANICLER
"The Argentine striker was the most influential player on the field. She scored three times and laid on the other goal. She was always to be found exactly where a striker has to be, which made her stand out today." Sylvie Beliveau, FIFA Technical Study Group .