As the last four teams prepare for their semi-final encounters at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013, speculation about which country will claim the ultimate honour is reaching fever pitch. But it is the players who make the game and this tournament has seen a number of young men get their footballing careers off to a shining start. Speed, skill and tactical awareness have all been on display, plus goals that will live long in the memory.
Brazil went out in the quarter-finals, but not before their prolific triumvirate of Mosquito, Nathan and Boschilia had their time in sun, knocking in 15 of their side’s 19 goals between them. It took two moments of individual brilliance from Mexico goalkeeper Raul Gudino to shut their party down, when he saved two Brazil penalties during a quarter-final shoot-out in Dubai.
It was a good night for Gudino, though the Mexican will be haunted by memories of Kelechi Iheanacho. The Nigeria forward put four past him in the opening group game between the two sides, and the African team’s rampant form did not desert them thereafter with Iheanacho’s midfield team-mate Musa Yahaya impressing in particular. Yahaya, who has spoken of his ambition to live up to his nickname-sake 'Iniesta,' is one to watch for the future.
Sweden’s dream run in UAE comes courtesy of teamwork and a sterling group ethic, while striker Valmir Berisha’s excellent performances have courted comparisons with a young Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Slovakia, meanwhile, owe a huge debt to Tomas Vestenicky, whose five goals out of a team total of seven were instrumental in seeing the side through to their first ever Round of 16 spot.
No UAE 2013 highlight reel would be complete without footage of Uruguay’s three musketeers, Franco Acosta, Leandro Ortomin and Kevin Mendez, not to mention Joaquin Ibanez and Sebastian Driussi, the deadly duo from Argentina. Debutants Morocco can be justly proud of striker Younes Bnou Marzouk.
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