Brazil are back. After a six-year wait, the
Verdeamarelos are once again continental champions after
winning the South American U-20 Championship in Paraguay last
The win brought to nine the number of continental titles Brazil have claimed in this category, and secured their berth at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007 . The Seleção, who last wore the crown at Ecuador 2001, sealed victory at this year's tournament thanks to a last-day win over reigning champions Colombia .
Brazil will be joined at Canada 2007 by fellow South Americans Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. Read on as FIFA.com takes a look back at the thrilling six-team final stage held between 19 and 28 January in the cities of Luque and Asuncion.
At the last FIFA U-20 World Cup, at Netherlands 2005 , Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Colombia flew the flag for South America. This time, however, the Cafeteros missed out and Uruguay will travel in their place after securing third spot in a tournament that produced mixed results for the top four sides.
Brazil (11pts +5) started slowly but came good as
the tournament wore on. After early draws with Argentina and Chile,
Seleção found their form with a timely and convincing 3-1
win over Uruguay, who were then vying for top-spot.
Nelson Rodrigues' young charges then followed that up with a 1-0 triumph over Paraguay before deservedly securing the title against Colombia. An early goal allowed Brazil to control that final game, and in the end they ran out comfortable 2-0 winners.
"I've a very tight-knit group and they were ready for anyone. I'm happy with the quality shown by my players, and I believe this side could give a lot more joy to Brazil," Rodrigues said after winning the title.
Argentina (8pts +2) meanwhile, normally known for
their confident and attack-minded sides, looked anything but as
they erred on the side of caution, got men behind the ball and did
what was asked of them and no more. In fairness, however, they did
have to take on the rest of the continent without their top
Their parsimony at the back was particularly noteworthy: after their opening 2-2 draw with Brazil, goalkeeper Sergio Romero did not concede again during the entire final phase, ensuring his side picked up points against Paraguay (1-0), Chile (0-0), Colombia 0-0 and Uruguay (1-0). Hugo Tocalli's side made sure of their place in Canada with that narrow victory over the Celeste, Lautaro Acosta popping up to head the all-important goal in the second minute of stoppage time.
"Of the seven U-20 and six U-17 (regional) Championships I've taken part in, this was the one in which I suffered most," Tocalli said. "That said, I believed in the footballing potential of this team. With some reinforcements, we'll be ready to fight for top honours at the World Cup," the coach added. Argentina, the reigning world champions, have won four of the last six editions of the tournament: 1995, 1997, 2001 and 2005.
Uruguay (7pts +3), in contrast to Brazil, started brightly only for their challenge to fade. After seeing off Paraguay and Colombia in 3-1 and 2-0 respectively in their opening two games, Gustavo Ferrin's side seemed to run out of steam. First they lost emphatically to Brazil, then had to sweat out a nerve-wracking 1-1 draw against Chile, before finally going down 1-0 to Argentina in stoppage time. And though they may feel that third place and the Fair Play prize is scant reward for their efforts, the Celeste deserve credit for returning the world stage after missing out on Argentina 2001 , UAE 2003 and Netherlands 2005.
In fourth place were
Chile (6pts +4) who, while perhaps playing the
best football of all six sides in the final phase, were hampered by
a lack of consistency. They began with a storming 5-0 win over
Colombia and followed that with a near-miraculous 2-2 draw with
Brazil, when they managed a last-gasp equaliser despite being a man
La Roja then added to their tally by sharing the spoils
with Argentina, the only team they failed to score against, before
getting a taste of their own medicine against Uruguay, the
Charrua stunning them with a last-minute equaliser.
A slip up in their final game against Paraguay, who won by the odd goal in five, was not enough to deny them a place in Canada after they managed to edge out the hosts on goal difference. "My boys are returning home a bit subdued, as if they hadn't achieved anything, but we've qualified for the World Cup, which was a very, very difficult thing to do," said their coach Jose Sulantay.
Names and numbers
Of course, there were other stories to come out of Paraguay 2007, principal among which were the failure of the Guaranies and Colombia to build on their fine recent form at youth level and make the final four for Canada.
As for the tournament numbers, it is worth noting that the hexagonal final phase produced 40 goals in 15 games - an impressive average of 2.66 per game. The top-scoring sides were Brazil and Chile, with ten apiece, while Argentina boasted the meanest defence, their keeper Sergio Romero conceding just two goals and finishing the tournament with 390 unbeaten minutes.
Also garnering plaudits was
Celeste captain Edinson Cavani, who continued where he
left off with Uruguayan club side Danubio by netting seven times to
take the top-scorer award. In second place was Chile's Arturo
Vidal with six, followed by Brazil's Alexandre Pato and another
Chilean, Nicolas Medina, both on five.
Players to watch
Although team line-ups could change between now and Canada 2007, where there are sure to be a host of talented youngsters on display, on the strength of Paraguay 2007 the following starlets could well figure prominently.
For the champions, the standout figure was striker Alexandre Pato , who at just 17 showed the class, ability and goal-scoring touch that has earned him a first-team place at Internacional de Porto Alegre. Also worth keeping a close eye on are goalkeeper Casio, winger Carlinhos, midfielders William and Lucas and front men Tcho and Luiz Adriano.
For Argentina, those who could well make a name for themselves in Canada include their impressive goalkeeper Sergio Romero, defenders Matias Cahais and Federico Fazio, and midfielder Ever Banega, a player who is adept at both winning the ball and controlling it.
Uruguay, for their part, gave an opportunity to some of the U-17 side that impressed at the FIFA U-17 World Championship Peru 2005 , including strike partners Elias Figueroa and Cavani, of whom great things are expected. Also noteworthy were the performances of midfielders Gerardo Vonder Putten, Juan Surraco and Diego Arismendi.
Chile also have reason for optimism and will be carefully monitoring the progress of their young marksman Arturo Vidal, attacking midfielder Nicolas Medina, playmaker Alexis Sanchez and defender Nicolas Larrondo.
Final standings after hexagonal phase:
1.- Brazil 11 pts (+5 goal difference) (1 and 2)
2.- Argentina 9 pts (+2) (1 and 2)
3.- Uruguay 7 pts (+2) (2)
4.- Chile 6 pts (+4) (2)
5.- Paraguay 6 pts (-2)
6.- Colombia 1 pt (-10).
(1 and 2) Qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007 and
the Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008.
(2) Qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007.