The FIFA U-17 World Cup title is one of the few still to elude the Argentinian national team, which means Jose Luis Brown's young Albiceleste charges have a golden opportunity to make history at Nigeria 2009. Argentina have taken part in nine previous editions of the elite event, with their best finishes the third places achieved at Italy 1991, Ecuador 1995 and Finland 2003. Having missed out on Peru 2005, they were beaten in the quarter-finals of Korea 2007 by eventual winners Nigeria.
Argentina underlined their status as one of South America's strongest sides at this level by coming through the regional qualifying tournament unbeaten. In the first phase of this year's Sudamericano in Chile, wins over Venezuela, Chile and Uruguay and a draw with Ecuador were enough to seal top spot in Group B. Compact, quick and effective, the Argentinians later showed their character in the final by coming back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Brazil, only for their arch-rivals to prevail on penalty kicks.
The Albicelestes' goal in Nigeria will be to break the semi-final barrier at this event for the first time. Under the command of Brown, a FIFA World Cup™ winner at Mexico 1986, Argentina boasted the joint best defensive record in regional qualifying, thanks in large part to keeper Damian Martinez and captain Esteban Espindola. Their midfield department is well-stocked with gifted ball-players, which in turn ensures quality service for the likes of star forward Daniel Alberto Villalva. The diminutive front-runner, who has already tasted top-flight action with his club River Plate, was the team's leading scorer at the Sudamericano. "We leave here hurting after losing the final, but we've got nothing to reproach ourselves for. This squad achieved what it came to do and will keep working hard in order to go far in Nigeria," said the coach after the qualifying tournament.
Facts and figures
Fernando Redondo (1985), Roberto Abbondanzieri (1989), Marcelo Gallardo (1991), Juan Sebastian Veron (1991), Esteban Cambiasso (1995), Pablo Aimar (1995), Gabriel Milito (1997), Javier Mascherano (2001), Carlos Tevez (2001), Fernando Gago (2003)
Damian Martinez (goalkeeper), Esteban Espindola (defender), Daniel Villalva (forward), Sergio Araujo (forward)
Argentina won four of their five games, scoring ten goals and conceding four.
The numbers game
4 - The number of goals Argentina conceded at the Sudamericano in Chile. Along with winners Brazil, they had the tournament's best defensive record.
|2||Leandro GONZALEZ PIREZ|
|18||Gonzalo OLID APAZA|
|17||Guido DAL CASON|