THE DAY REPLAYED – Uruguay became the first team to qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup semi-finals on Sunday, making easy meat of first-timers Uzbekistan to end the Central Asians’ fairytale run. Goals from Santiago Charamoni and Rodrigo Aguirre were enough for the win in Monterrey, which sets up a semi-final date with a familiar foe.

The Celeste will take on none other than Brazil in the first semi-final after the Seleção survived a late scare against Japan to win out Queretaro. The result capped a sorry day for Asia as the continent lost its two remaining combatants while Brazil now head back to their home away from home in Guadalajara for an all-South American grudge match on 7 July.

Uruguay 2-0 Uzbekistan
Japan 2-3 Brazil

Goal of the day

Leo 16’, Japan-Brazil
His wasn’t the prettiest goal of the day, but Brazilian striker Leo is proving himself a specialist. On from the start for the first time in Mexico, his no-frills header opened the scoring against Japan and was a virtual carbon copy of the insurance goal he grabbed late in Brazil’s last outing against Ecuador. The tallest player on the field and in the Seleção squad, Leo raced to the near post, timing his run to perfection, and flicked his header past the despairing Kosuke Nakamura to send the three-time U-17 world champions on their way to the their seventh semi-final appearance in 13 tries.

Memorable moments
Young Brazilians give a lesson in finishing
Ademilson, Leo and Adryan were all on target to bring free-scoring Brazil’s goal tally to a whopping 12 in five games. Their sharp-shooting against the Japanese in Queretaro stood in stark contrast to their senior side’s performance on the day, as hot-shot Neymar, Pato, Fred, Ganso and Robinho all failed to capitalise on any of their many chances, opening their Copa America account in Argentina with a humbling scoreless draw against Venezuela. Perhaps the big boys can take a page out of their understudies’ book when they take on Paraguay on 9 July.

No Mascia, No problem as Uruguay stroll
“Of course we want to reach the semi-finals like our senior team did last year, but we have to go one game at a time.” This was the response of Uruguay coach Fabian Coito when asked early on in the tournament if his Celeste side could match the senior team’s performance last year at South Africa 2010. They have now done exactly that, their latest step on the road to the last-four a simple win over Uzbekistan. It is the Charruas’ third clean sheet at these finals and the dominant performance came without injured star striker Juan Cruz Mascia, who is already drawing comparisons to one Diego Forlan, the driving force behind last year’s run and the man named top player at the FIFA World Cup™.

Adios for Monterrey, Queretaro
Today saw two venues close their doors as steamy Monterrey and Queretaro both hosted their last matches. Monterrey’s Estadio Universitario or ‘El Volcan’ was the stage for Japan’s rise through a tough group, Jamaica’s first-ever U-17 goal and point as well as one of the strikes of the tournament in Argentine Brian Ferreira’s staggering 45-yard chip in the first round. Queretaro was the scene for Germany’s dominant charge through the competition – the junior Nationalmannschaft scoring 15 goals in their four games at the Estadio Corregidora. First-timers Panama will remember the ground fondly too, as they went through to the knockout rounds with an impressive win over Burkina Faso there. Tomorrow, worthy hosts Pachuca and Morelia will take their bows as well as the tournament builds toward its grand finale at the fabled Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

The stat
3 –
Ganisher Kholmurodov’s diving block on Uruguayan No10 Guillermo Mendez was the third spot-kick saved or missed at these U-17 finals, meaning 30 per cent of penalties here in Mexico have failed to hit the net. Knowing how important shots from the spot can be in the knockout rounds of a World Cup, the remaining teams might want to take a page out of England’s book. “We practice penalties in every training session,” their captain Nathaniel Chalobah told after scoring the winner in the only shootout thus far, against Argentina in Pachuca.

Up next

Monday 4 July 2011