England booked their passage to the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 with a penalty shoot-out win over Argentina, after the contest finished 1-1. The game at a waterlogged Estadio Hidalgo in Pachuca was never going to a be a spectacle of technical football, and in the end the Europeans' endeavor won the day. They will now meet Germany, who overwhelmed USA in Queretaro.
England came out flying in the early minutes, penetrating through a number of early raids by Raheem Sterling up the left side. The water pooling on the pitch was causing the lively and jet-heeled Liverpool winger no trouble at all. In the fourth minute, Sterling sent a clever through ball for Blair Turgott, who crossed well through the area. However, Hallam Hope’s finish failed to match the build-up for quality and his close-range volley at the unguarded net went off the crossbar and out for a goal-kick.
Just four minutes later, captain Nathanial Chalobah fired in a free-kick from distance that had Argentina keeper Bruno Galvan scrambling. But it was a set-piece at the other end that saw the first goal. Marcos Pinto’s free-kick hit the wet pitch in front of England keeper Jordan Pickford and Maximiliano Padilla was on the spot to scramble the ball home after the keeper lost control of it. The goal came very much against the run of play, and the English went about the business of hauling themselves back into the game as the half progressed.
They got their just reward for their patient build-up five minutes before the interval when Sterling’s low drive evaded Galvan and nestled just inside the far post to level the score. Argentina came out in the second half looking to hit the English on the break, opening up their tactics a touch. Gaspar Iniguez lashed in a shot from distance in the 62nd minute that warmed the hands of Pickford, but never really troubled the net-minder.
As the half wore on, both sides had chances to bag the crucial goal with the sloppy conditions causing havoc in both penalty areas. In the 75th minute, Pickford was all at sea once more as Iniguez’s free-kick went through his legs again. However, this time the England keeper regained his composure and grabbed the ball at the second attempt.
At the end of the 90 minutes of regular time, neither side could be separated, despite Argentina going down to ten men after Pinto was sent off late. The game went directly to penalties, bypassing extra-time, a new system adopted for the U-17 finals here in Mexico. Augustine Allione's crucial kick saved by Pickford, and Chalobah stepped up to send England into the quarter-finals, where they will meet another old rival in Germany.