The home side were crowned U-17 world champions with a 2-0 win over Uruguay on Sunday at the Estadio Azteca, the spiritual home of Mexican football and one of the true cathedrals of the world game. Captain Antonio Briseno and Giovani Casillas were the men of the hour, scoring the crucial goals as the Mexicans collected their second junior world title in the space of six years.
The game began cautiously, as FIFA World Cup finals often do. Each side spent a full 20 minutes feeling the other out. It was clear who the fans’ favourites were, however, with every touch of the Mexican team roared and cheered to the heavens by the huge crowd of nearly 100,000 at the Azteca.
The supporters, many wearing white bandages on their heads in honour of semi-final hero Julio Gomez, who started on the bench, must have played a role in sending Mexico into the lead. The home side found their breakthrough just after the half-hour mark when a cross from the right side was flicked on by top-scorer Carlos Fierro and captain Antonio Briseno slammed home on the full volley with his right foot.
Uruguay nearly hit back straight away, but Elbio Alvarez’s effort splattered off the post from distance after the Mexican defence failed to clear the danger. Fierro had one more chance up the other end as the interval approached, but he failed to steer his shot into the top corner after breaking well into the area. The Uruguayans, without the influential Rodrigo Aguirre, who went down with a head injury early on, looked a rueful bunch as they walked to the changing rooms amid an almighty cacophony of appreciation aimed at the Mexican players.
Mexico came out in the second half with all guns blazing, pressing forward into attack much to the delight of the crowd. A series of middle-distance shots from Fierro and his strike-partner Marco Bueno had Uruguayan goalkeeper Jonathan Cubero, voted the best net-minder of the tournament, looking nervous early on.
But the South Americans were not dead and buried just yet, and Juan San Martin collected the ball at the corner of the box in the 61st minute only to see his shot come flying back off the post with Richard Sanchez beaten. It was the second time the home team had been saved by the woodwork and it spurred them to tighten things up at the back.
The traditional ‘Oles’ began to rain down from the crowd as the game, stalled at 1-0, entered into a frenzied final ten minutes. The home side had a chance to score again after an almighty scramble in front of goal in the 83rd minute, but Fierro and Bueno both failed to fire home. Shortly after, Arturo Gonzalez blazed just over the bar from 20 yards out. And just seconds before the end, Giovani Casillas poked home to put the result beyond doubt as the final whistle triggered scenes of unparalleled passion from fans and players both.