Tuesday’s opening semi-final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup United Arab Emirates 2013 pits aspiring Argentina against reigning champions Mexico, who have recovered from a disastrous start to the competition and are now eyeing a successful title defence.
After having the honour of scoring what turned out to be his side’s winner against Côte d’Ivoire in the last eight, Rodrigo Moreira then had the misfortune to pick up his second yellow card of the tournament, ruling him out of the meeting with Mexico.
Match of the day
As the only semi-finalists not to have emerged from Group F, Argentina are the odd men out as they make their return to the last four for the first time since 2003. Kicking off their campaign with laborious wins over Iran and Austria, La Albiceleste then found the kind of form that suggests they have what it takes to win the title.
The only team along with Nigeria to boast an unbeaten record at UAE 2013, the South Americans were deadly in front of goal and solid in defence against the Ivorians in the last round, qualities they will need to show again if they are to win through to their first U-17 World Cup final.
Humbled by Nigeria in their first game, Mexico have since recovered and are now on course to repeat the achievement of the previous Tri generation on home soil two years ago. The boys in green silenced the doubters when they toppled the mighty Brazil in the last eight, holding firm against the much-vaunted Auriverde attack before coming out on top in a heart-stopping shoot-out. Having shown their mettle on several occasions already, Raul Gutierrez’s charges are looking formidable once more.
Player to watch
Raul Gudino (MEX)
The Mexico goalkeeper could not have made a more deflating start to the tournament, conceding six goals in his side’s opening match against Nigeria. Gudino has shown considerable ability and mental strength since then however, underlining how good a shot-stopper he is by denying Gabriel and Mosquito from the spot as Mexico prevailed on penalties in last Friday’s quarter-final against Brazil.
3 - This is the third time that the Mexicans have advanced to this stage of the competition in their last four appearances. For their part La Albiceleste have reached the semis four times on the 12 occasions they have taken part in the competition, which has been held 15 times to date. The two sides have met just once in the tournament before, in the quarter-finals in 2003, when the South Americans won 2-0.
“I was very impressed by Mexico’s defeat of Brazil. It will be a special game for me because I was in charge of the Mexican U-17 team in Finland in 2003. In any case, matches between the two countries are always special, at any age level,” Argentina coach Humberto Grondona.
“We’re aiming to win the tournament but we need to come through two more games to achieve that. All the sides left in the competition are definite title contenders and if we don’t come away with the trophy, then we shouldn’t look on it as a failure,” Mexico coach Raul Gutierrez.