Uruguay's participation in the FIFA U-17 World Championship Peru 2005 has come to a disappointing end, and they will take away very few good memories from the tournament. Beaten 2-1 by Australia in their final Group B game in Chiclayo on 23 September, the Celeste return home with zero points after conceding seven goals and scoring just three. They certainly had chances to win an encounter in which nothing but pride was at stake, but the Aussies were ultimately rewarded for their extra motivation. All that remains now is to wish the two teams a safe journey back.
"We played well today. We started well and after 25 minutes the Uruguayans sont got back into the game. I really liked the way we played in the second half. We defended well and created a lot of chances," said Ange Postecoglou after the match.
Ange Postecoglou made just one change to his line-up, introducing Matthew Mullen in place of Leigh Broxham, and Gustavo Ferrin was equally circumspect, giving Mauro Goicoechea his chance to shine in goal at Yonatan Irrazabal's expense. But despite the captain's speeches on Fair-Play Day and the bright sunshine beating down on Chiclayo, not to mention the lung-busting exhortations of the Uruguayan radio commentators, the 22 protagonists began the match at a pedestrian pace. Nobody seemed charged up to take the initiative, but with both sides already eliminated, that was perhaps to be expected.
What action there was in the early stages came from the Australians, first of all with David D'Apuzzo trying a shot that flew narrowly wide (3'). Racing down the left, Kaz Patafta then spun in a cross that failed to find a team-mate (12'), and moments later he was on the receiving end himself but was unable to convert his chance (17'). Meanwhile, the listless Charruas had nothing to offer in the way of an attacking threat of their own, and they were made to pay when their opponents next came at them on the break. The ball fell to Nathan Burns inside the semi-circle outside Uruguay's area, and he unleashed a superbly curled shot that sailed past Goicoechea and into the top corner (1:0, 20').
Uruguay try to salvage pride
The goal failed to rouse the Celeste into any kind of instant response, and even though Enzo Scorza kept himself busy on the right wing, his crosses kept failing to pick out a colleague. The match suffered as a spectacle and the good-humoured Chiclayo crowd kept their spirits up by singing a song to the mascot: "Vicky a la cancha!" (Vicky on the pitch!). Perhaps insulted, the Uruguayans at last raised their game and managed to carve out an equaliser thanks to good work on the left from Marcel Roman. He crossed the ball in, Gerardo Vonder Putten let it run by and the ideally-placed Elias Figueroa applied the finishing touch (1:1, 38'). The same players then repeated exactly the same move five minutes later, but this time Figueroa was denied by Alex Vrteski (43').
The signs were encouraging and the Uruguayans came out after the break with similar intentions. Michel Acosta tested Vrteski from a wicked free-kick (53'), and the same man was soon back to cause more trouble when he headed narrowly off-target from a corner (61'). At the other end, Broxham cracked a sweetly-struck shot that Goicoechea needed to be at full stretch to keep out (62'). At last, the game was coming to life and either side looked capable of snatching the winner. Australia were still creating the most dangerous openings, however, and Scott Jamieson ought to have done better when Joel Allwright's cross from the goal-line found him free in space on the penalty spot. Instead of burying the ball, the Bolton player scuffed his effort (69').
Almost immediately afterwards, it fell to Burns to miss the target in a good position when he found himself one-on-one with Goicoechea after collecting a long pass (70'). Uruguay were far from being a spent force though, and Damian Suarez hit back with a fierce strike that Vrteski did well to tip wide for a corner (76'). Scorza then embarked upon a mazy run down the left and whipped in a shot that clattered against the crossbar (78'). It was end-to-end stuff, but the Australians were about to have the final word. Leading a counter-attack, Burns broke free on the left and sent in a near-post cross that left Robbie Kruse with the simple task of turning the ball home (2:1, 83').
It was enough to swing the game and, as the final whistle blew, the Aussies could content themselves with having at least registered a win and collected three points during their adventure. There was no such consolation for the Charruas, however, and having looked so impressive in qualifying they mysteriously fell apart in Peru.
Uruguay coach Gustavo Ferrin was at a loss to explain his side's performance: "We were on a par with them in the first half. But then we lost all focus and lost control over the midfield. Our three-man forward line didn't work and we didn't even manage to make use of the wind advantage."