Fabian Coito’s Celeste booked a place in their first-ever final of a FIFA U-17 World Cup with a 3-0 win over South American neighbours and arch-rivals Brazil in Guadalajara on Thursday. The defeat represents the Brazilians' first loss in the competition’s history to a continental rival and yet another step forward in Uruguay’s profound footballing renaissance.
The first half had a surprisingly open feel and Uruguay had a chance to take an early lead after only two minutes. A huge punt up the field from goalkeeper Jonathan Cubero was collected brilliantly by Maximiliano Moreira, who flicked the ball over his marker only to fire wide of the post.
Brazil slowly began to settle into the match after that and a few more early scares, controlling the ball in the middle of the field with their trademark style. Their left-sided starlet, Lucas Piazon, wriggled into the area after 14 minutes, but he took one too many touches and Gaston Silva eventually tackled the ball away. Brazil were finding seams in the Uruguayan rearguard, however, and Ademilson was through a few minutes later, only to chip his effort over the bar from a tight angle.
The Celeste looked dangerous on the counter-attack, as they have throughout the entire tournament. In the 17th minute, Brazil’s goalkeeper charged off his line and smashed into Rodrigo Aguirre, giving he Russian referee no choice but to point to the spot. With usual penalty taker Guillermo Mendez on the bench, Elbio Alvarez stepped up and did the honours, straight down the middle of the goal and into the back of the net.
Brazil and Uruguay both had chances to score in the closing minutes of the half, but Lucas Piazon was denied by Cubero on two occasions and Alvarez was kept from scoring his second thanks to the acrobatics of Charles. The goalkeeper made amends for his earlier error with a fine diving save in the 37th minute.
The Brazilians came out from the locker-room desperate to draw level, piling the pressure on their South American neighbours from the outset. The Charruas nearly surrendered their lead in the 60th minute, but Cubero pulled off another fine save from Emerson after the Santos man combined well with Ademilson and broke into the penalty area. Two minutes later Marlon Bica’s shot from way out caused havoc in the area and Ademilson could only hit the rebound over the crossbar. The tension was mounting, and substitute Nathan’s header hit Cubero directly in the chest when a goal looked on the cards.
But Uruguay, ruthless on the break, broke Brazilian hearts in the 72nd minute. Guillermo Mendez raced in and powered his way through the area only to have the ball tackled away, but substitute Juan San Martin came flying through to slam his half-volley just inside the far post to make it 2-0. They added another goal - another counter-attack - deep into stoppage time to rout the forlorn Brazilians, who were stretched in a frenzied attempt to find a goal.
Uruguay now move on to the grand final at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on 10 July. Their date on the day will be none other than impressive hosts Mexico, who eliminated free-scoring Germany in Torreon.