Mexico reaffirmed their candidature as one of the tournament favourites with a resounding 3:0 win over Australia in their second Group B game at the FIFA U-17 World Championship today. El Tri's victory at the National Stadium in Lima leaves them with maximum points after two games and odds on for a place in the last eight.
"We came here with a clear aim: to become world champions. Nothing will distract us from that task. Today we put in a very good performance and moved one step closer," commented Mexico's coach Jesús Ramírez.
Just as they had done in their opening game against Uruguay, Mexico wasted no time in getting at their opponents and stamping their authority on the game. As expected, Australia set their stall out to try and contain the CONCACAF champions, leaving five men at the back. Given the teams' respective formations and Mexico's ability to open even the meanest of defences with their precision passing, it came as no surprise to see Alex Vrteski's goal quickly under siege.
In the opening exchanges both Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela spurned decent chances by sending their respective left-foot efforts wide. As for Ange Postecoglou's boys, the best they could manage were a few probing counter attacks led by Kaz Patafta and Robbie Kruse, but neither could put a decent finish to their moves. Mexico continued to call the shots and a measure of Australia's early frustration were the three bookings the side picked up in the opening quarter of an hour.
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"We didn't know how to dominate Mexico, who showed themselves to be a very powerful side and one capable of dictating play at will," said a disappointed Ange Postecoglou afterwards.
After that the breakthrough was not long in coming. Some neat interplay between dos Santos and Vela ended with the Barcelona man in possession wide on the left. With his back to goal, dos Santos swivelled and picked out Esparza, who steered his waist-high shot past the outstretched hand of Vrteski (1:0; 20'). It was no more than Mexico deserved, and they would go on to extend their lead just before the break. Dos Santos was again involved, floating a ball over the top to Vela on the left side of the box. Vela chested it down expertly and hit a left-foot half-volley under the keeper and in off the far post (2:0; 43'). Postecoglou later admitted that the crucial second goal "broke our spirit", before adding, "there was no way back for the boys after that."
The bloodied but unbowed Joeys, who had not one clear-cut chance in the opening forty-five, huddled around the centre-circle before the start of the second half. Whatever words were spoken seemed to do the trick as they almost pulled one back immediately. Daniel Miller, a first-half sub, fired in a low cross that Nathan Burns narrowly failed to connect with. However, this turned out to be a mere flash in the pan with the Latin Americans quickly reasserting their dominance, though without the same conviction in attack they showed earlier on.
Vela thrills the fans
Vela took it upon himself to rouse the spectators, who had gone a little quiet after the flurry of chances early on. The Chivas de Guadalajara striker, finding himself in space out on the right, took down another high ball and fired in a stinging volley that just went wide of the far post. The 'Aussies' then hit back with a scintillating break from Burns, but his shot came back off Sergio Arias' chest, with Kruse failing to convert the rebound. With the clock ticking down, it fell to Vela, who else, to round off a fine individual performance. When Vrteski could only parry a close-range effort from dos Santos, the striker was on hand in the six-yard area to steer his second home (3:0; 79'). "It's true that we have a very powerful strike force, but these two boys count on crucial support from the rest of the players, who are also playing extremely well," Ramírez explained afterwards.
The third goal made it game, set and match for Mexico, with the hapless Australians even denied the consolation of a late riposte. With almost the last kick of the game, Patafta looked to have pulled one back, but Arias simply would not be beaten. In the end, it was a thoroughly deserved win for Mexico, and one warmly applauded by the watching Peruvian public.