Uruguay, runners-up from the last U-17 finals in Mexico, made easy work of their Round of 16 clash in Ras Al Khaimah, beating Slovakia 4-2 to set up a date with Nigeria in the quarter-finals. Three first-half goals set the South Americans on their way to victory and the east Europeans had no real answer to their wildly effective counter-attacking scheme despite grabbing a pair of consolation goals in the second half.
Uruguay, who had come from behind in their previous two games, flew into a lead early against Slovakia. A long pass from midfield after five minutes was dreadfully misplayed by goalkeeper Martin Junas, and the ball fell to the feet of Leandro Otormin. The potent striker trapped simply and tapped into the open net.
In firm control, the Uruguayans were looking dangerous on the counter-attack. Their game-plan was clear and totally effective: allow the Europeans to advance and then hit them on the break. Junas was in trouble again after 23 minutes when he tried to intercept a Kevin Mendez pass. The ball fell to Franco Acosta whose effort was cleared away by the diving Atila Varga before it crossed the line.
Slovakia weren’t so lucky as the half wore on, conceding twice before the interval. Acosta crossed from the right for Franco Pizzichillo who was crudely cut down by Junas in the 34th minute. Mendez stepped up to hit home from the spot, making the score 2-1. The South Americans made it 3-0 three minutes from the break when a corner-kick was nodded home by Acosta, who hardly had to jump for the ball.
The second period began with Slovakia signaling their intent to get back into the game early. Varga’s header from an inch-perfect cross slammed against the crossbar just three minutes in. Ten minutes later, Uruguay scored again to make it 4-0. Once more, it was Otormin – who strolled into the Slovak penalty area with acres of space and time before firing home a simple finish.
The Europeans rallied as the game faded toward full-time, and they grabbed a pair of goals for their efforts. Tomas Vestenicky hit home from a tough angle out wide on the left in the 63rd minute and Michael Sipak headed home to make it 4-2 with five minutes to go. There was to be no dramatic fight-back for Slovakia though, as they head out of the competition at the first knockout hurdle. Uruguay, for their part, are through to the quarters, where they will meet mighty three-time champions Nigeria.