Just as they have done on four previous occasions in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, Argentina reached the semi-finals at UAE 2013 only to miss out on a place in the final. Yet, having grown in stature throughout the tournament, the Argentinians are refusing to be downhearted following Tuesday’s semi-final defeat to Mexico, and are already looking forward to Friday’s match for third place against Sweden.
One of La Albiceleste’s standout performers in the UAE has been Lucio Compagnucci. The Velez Sarsfield midfielder has turned in some courageous displays so far and was hurting more than most at losing out to the Mexicans.
“It’s very painful and I feel pretty powerless, which I suppose is how you should feel after losing a semi-final,” he told FIFA.com. “It was a strange game. We missed a penalty four minutes in. Then they scored, got another, and we had a player sent off. I feel very angry because the ball just didn’t want to go in.”
The No14 identified the penalty miss and first-half dismissal of team-mate Joaquin Ibanez as crucial to the outcome of the game: “If we’d scored that penalty and not had a player sent off, I think we would have won.
"If we’d put it away, we could have then sat back and hit on the counter. It was just bad luck for Sebastian Driussi, but we all know very well that he’s helped us to win on other occasions, even if he couldn’t manage it today.”
Concurring with that view was Argentina defender Nicolas Pinto: “People watching the game could see that Mexico were not the better side. I think we outplayed them the whole game, but we had the misfortune of going a man and two goals down. When one of our players got sent off, the team lost its shape and they had more space. To my mind the result is misleading, because we would have gone on to win easily if we’d scored the penalty.”
Coach Humberto Grondona also weighed in: “There was only one team playing in the second half. They made the most of the counter-attack they had and made the difference in the scoreline. Mexico are a good side and they play very well. It was their night tonight, not ours, and it’s as simple as that.”
Contemplating their last assignment in the UAE, Compagnucci said: “After missing out on the final, all I can say is that we’re keeping our heads held high and we’re proud of this team and the family we’ve become. We’re going to go all out for that third place because we’ve worked very hard to get this far and we don’t want to go away empty-handed.”
Pinto, who plays for Boca Juniors back home and came on with half an hour remaining against the Mexicans, mapped the way forward for Argentina: “We’re going to rest now, let the dust settle and think about Friday’s match. We’re going to give it all we’ve got because coming third is not the same as coming fourth. We’ll be putting the preparations in so that we can climb on to the podium.”
“It’s been a long time since an Argentinian team reached the semi-finals of a World Cup,” added Grondona, expressing his satisfaction with his side’s performance thus far. “The boys are feeling down but they know that they gave everything they had out there. We got together on the pitch after the game and I congratulated them and told them what a father would do with his sons, though that’ll stay in the dressing room.”
Grondona added that he has set one last objective for the whole squad: “The boys and all the technical staff want that podium finish now. I know it’s not the best, but I think it will spur them on for the rest their career and in the stage of development they’re at right now.”