Four in a row for brilliant Brazil
© EFE

Brazil continued their domination of the U-17 scene in South America by securing their fourth consecutive title in the age category in Ecuador, and their tenth in all. With victory came a place at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011, where the all-conquering Canarinha will be joined by Uruguay, Argentina and the Ecuadorians.

The quartet will also be lining up at the Pan-American Games Guadalajara 2011, while the same four nations will all be taking part at the upcoming FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 as well.

The qualifiers
Brazil
’s regional supremacy is showing no signs of abating just yet. Now under the watchful eye of Emerson Avila, the boys in yellow and green racked up some impressive stats, winning seven and drawing one of their nine matches and top-scoring with 22 goals.

Their only loss came in the group phase against Paraguay, prompting Avila to reshuffle his team for their next encounter with Colombia. Making nine changes, the coach looked on with satisfaction as his team strolled to a 5-1 win: “We stayed patient and did what we came to do, though it’s always special to win a title,” he said after Brazil’s 3-2 victory over Argentina in the final round of games.

Uruguay finished runners-up for the third time in their history and are the only team along with Brazil to have qualified for the last four youth world finals (two U-17 and two U-20 competitions). Fabian Coito’s side improved as the tournament went on, advancing from the first phase with six points, more than any other side, and then going through the final phase unbeaten. The first team to qualify for Mexico 2011, La Celeste also had the tournament’s top scorer in their ranks, Juan Mascia, who found the back of the net six times in all.

Argentina came home third after winning their group in the opening phase and then falling away in the final pool. Even so, Oscar Garre’s team went into their last game still in with a chance of becoming champions and, though they failed in their bid to end Brazil’s reign, they will be making their 11th appearance at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, and their third in a row.

Hosts Ecuador were rewarded for their consistency with the final qualification slot. After finishing second behind Argentina in the group stage, they then clinched their place in Mexico with victory over La Albiceleste in the final pool. In the tournament for the first time since hosting the event in 1995, the Ecuadorians will be appearing on the big stage for only the third time. “There are a lot of factors involved in football: quality, fitness, the emotional aspect, character and desire. The boys have shown all of those things,” said coach Xavier Rodriguez, who was also delighted to see his side pick up the Fair Play Award.

The other teams
After qualifying for the last three tournaments, Colombia will be bitterly disappointed with their fifth place, having won twice in the first phase but only once in the final group, a late and ultimately academic win over Paraguay, who were already out themselves. La Albirroja went into the tournament as one of the favourites, but not even a 2-1 defeat of Brazil could help them achieve their objective.

Chile and Peru both collected four points but fell short of a spot in the final six-team group. La Rojita have now missed out on seven consecutive world finals in the category, while La Jotita last qualified in 2007. Bolivia had their moments but could only amass three points, which were three more than luckless Venezuela, who finished last after losing all their games.

Players to watch
Dubbed by some as the new Kaka, Brazilian forward Lucas Piazon lived up to all expectations, scoring three goals and showing his worth as a team man. Also starring for the champions were the defender Matheus, midfielder Adryan and the striker Leo. Aside from goal machine Mascia, strike partner Juan Manuel San Martin shone for Uruguay, as did goalkeeper Jonathan Cubero and defender Gaston Silva.

Argentinian strike duo Federico Andrada and Lucas Ocampo were consistency personified, while midfielder Jose Francisco Cevallos and front-man Luis Batioja both impressed for Ecuador. Among those who will not be gracing Mexico with their skills, however, are Bolivia’s Robert Silva and Paraguay’s Mauro Caballero, who finished the tournament as joint second-highest scorers with five goals.

 

Final standings
Brazil 13 points*
Uruguay 8 points*
Argentina 7 points*
Ecuador 6 points*
Colombia 4 points
Paraguay 1 point

* Qualifying places for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011

Top goalscorers
Juan Cruz Mascia (Uruguay), 6 goals
Mauro Caballero (Paraguay), 5
Robert Silva (Bolivia), 5
Federico Andrda (Argentina), 4
Leo (Brazil), 4
Fabián Cuero (Colombia), 4
Cristian Garcés (Colombia), 4

Fair Play Award
Ecuador