José Pekerman's charges made it two FIFA World Youth Championship titles in a row in Malaysia, overcoming Hungary, Canada, England, Brazil, Ireland Republic and Uruguay along the way. Technically and tactically outstanding, the Albiceleste deployed a floating 3-5-2 formation which constantly created a threat on the flanks and left no space at the back. Like all good sides, Argentina boasted a sound defence, where Diego Placente and Walter Samuel particularly stood out. But it was the irresistible midfield quartet of Esteban Cambiasso, captain Diego Markic, Juan Roman Riquelme and master creator Pablo Aimar who could take most credit for Argentina's victorious campaign.
South American teams were in sparkling form again, with three sides reaching the quarter-finals - Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. The latter two made it all the way to the Final. Ghana put up another commendable showing, reaching the semi-finals again only to be denied a final berth by a Uruguayan golden goal (3-2). This generation of Black Satellites - FIFA U-17 World Champions - just missed out on emulating their illustrious elders, who were FIFA World Youth Championship finalists in 1993.
In a tournament where the traditional European powerhouses France, England and Spain floundered, it was left to Ireland Republic to represent the Old Continent in the semi-finals. The youngsters from the Emerald Isle played a highly effective counter-attacking game, soaking up pressure and breaking quickly from the back, a tactic which saw them past the USA (2-1), Morocco (2-1), the mighty Spain in the quarters (1-0) and the entertaining Black Satellites in the third place play-off match.
Player of the Tournament:
Attacking Uruguayan duo Nicolas Olivera and Marcelo Danubio Zalayeta were highly instrumental in the Celeste reaching the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship Final. Olivera was named Player of the Tournament in recognition of his two goals, umpteen assists and his telepathic understanding with target man Zalayeta. "Nico" as he is known at home in Uruguay, was very much the linchpin in Victor Pùa's side, slipping deft passes into the penalty area with fabulous regularity. After the tournament, Nico left his club Defensor Sporting for Spain, where he first played for Valladolid before signing for FC Sevilla, his current club.
Pablo Aimar (ARG), Esteban Cambiasso (ARG), Diego Placente (ARG), Juan Roman Riquelme (ARG), Walter Samuel (ARG), Adailton (BRA), Jamie Carragher (ENG), Kieron Dyer (ENG), Danny Murphy (ENG), Michael Owen (ENG), Nicolas Anelka (FRA), William Gallas (FRA), Thierry Henry (FRA), Mikaël Silvestre (FRA), David Trezeguet (FRA), Peter Ofori-Quaye (GHA), Damien Duff (IRL), Benedict McCarthy (RSA), Miguel Angulo (ESP), Francisco Farinos (ESP), Gerard (ESP), Nicolas Olivera (URU), Marcelo Zalayeta (URU), John O'Brien (USA)
Malaysia 1997 stats :
- Ireland Republic
165 (av. : 3.17)
Brazil, 25 goals
- Adailton (BRA), 10 goals
- David Trezeguet (FRA), 5 goals
- Alex (BRA) 4 goals
Alor Setar, Johor Bahru, Kangar, Kuantan, Kuching, Sha Alam
655,827 (Final: 62,000)
Brazil set a new FIFA World Youth Championship scoring record when they put ten goals past Belgium without reply in a round of 16 game.