No fewer than 21 goals have been scored in Guadalajara so far here at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011, the highest tally of any host city, with eight of these struck by a single player: Côte d’Ivoire’s on-fire striker Souleymane Coulibaly. Equally appropriate for a Mexican footballing hotbed, home to domestic powerhouses Chivas - whose modern stadium hosted all but one game in Group F, was the fact that the mighty Brazil emerged as section winners.
The final standings
1. Brazil (7 points)
2. Côte d’Ivoire (4)
3. Australia (4)
4. Denmark (1)
Brazil-Ecuador, Guadalajara, Wednesday 29 June, 15.00 (local time)
Uzbekistan-Australia, Torreon, Wednesday 29 June, 15.00 (local time)
France-Côte d’Ivoire, Queretaro, Thursday 30 June, 18.00 (local time)
The tale of the teams
In terms of the spectacle put on and the technical ability of those involved, the demanding fans in Guadalajara could have no complaints. The fact that Denmark finished bottom of the group only serves to drive this point home, given they often looked like a side capable of going a long way.
Nor was the section lacking in outstanding individual talents, with Coulibaly’s awesome feats in hitting eight goals in three games standing him head and shoulders above the pack. Yet the Ivorians also relied heavily on the creativity of forward Drissa Diarrassouba and attacking midfielder Victorien Angban.
The Brazilians, for their part, appear to have unearthed a gem in striker Ademilson, who was ably supported by fellow front-runners Adryan and Lucas Piazon. In the Danish camp, Viktor Fischer’s displays underlined Dutch club Ajax’s wisdom in signing him, while followers of West Ham United will have been pleased to see the giant strides made by another centre-forward, Australia’s Dylan Tombides.
In terms of the games themselves, there was excitement aplenty, kicking off with an opening round in which Côte d’Ivoire impressed against Australia, only to pay the price for a number of missed chances when falling to a 2-1 reverse. Brazil and Denmark also put on a game to savour. The European side were dominant early on only to be denied by Seleção keeper Charles, whose saves laid the foundations for an eventual 3-0 success for the South Americans.
The second round of games featured a narrow 1-0 win for Brazil against the Aussies, while Côte d’Ivoire emerged 4-2 victors over Denmark in another thrilling, end-to-end encounter. Finally, the eagerly awaited tussle between Brazil and the Ivorians lived up to expectations with a sensational 3-3 draw. Over in Queretaro, the Danes were denied a face-saving victory by a last-gasp equaliser from Australia’s Luke Remington.
The Coulibaly show: Against a shell-shocked Danish side, the Ivorian striker found the net three times in an 18-minute first-half blitz, before adding another fine goal in the second period. Having also netted in the opening loss to Australia, the forward from Italian club Siena subsequently fired a quite stunning hat-trick in Côte d’Ivoire’s final group game against Brazil – a treble that featured a sublime overhead kick. With eight strikes to his name thus far, he is now just one behind the record tally of Florent Sinama Pongolle, who scored nine goals to help fire France to victory at Trinidad and Tobago 2001.
A dramatic draw: Having taken the lead twice against Côte d’Ivoire, Brazil found themselves 3-2 down deep into added time. Even with the Mexican faithful cheering on the valiant Africans and a point seemingly out of reach, A Seleção conjured up an equaliser in the third minute of injury time. Adryan it was who coolly slotted home from a pinpoint assist by Lucas Piazon, after the latter did extremely well to keep the ball in play.
21 – Thanks to their two wins and a draw here at Mexico 2011, Brazil have now not lost in open play in 21 matches in Guadalajara at FIFA competitions.
“We really were expecting a really tough, hard-fought game and the opening minutes already hinted at how good a match it’d be. That game was worthy of the final itself, it was truly beautiful,” Brazil coach Emerson Avila after his side’s dramatic draw with Côte d’Ivoire.