Argentina turned in an impressive performance as they won the South American U-20 title for the first time since 2003. La Albiceleste lost just one match in the process, going down to Paraguay in Group A, which they topped thanks to emphatic victories over Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. They maintained their momentum in the final six-team round, beating Peru, drawing with Colombia, getting the better of Brazil and then exacting revenge on Paraguay to make sure of their place at New Zealand 2015. Better was to come in their final match, as the Argentinians came from behind to defeat Uruguay 2-1 and clinch the continental crown.
Style and strengths
Character, organisation at the back and lethal finishing were the hallmarks of Argentina’s triumphant campaign. No side could match their strike rate of 24 goals in nine games, an average of 2.66 per match, a statistic that had a lot to do with Angel Correa and Giovanni Simeone.
While the talented Atletico Madrid forward walked away with the Player of the Tournament award, the River Plate front man, whose father is none other than Atleti coach Diego Simeone, was the competition’s top scorer with nine goals. Goalkeeper Augusto Batalla and central defender Emanuel Mammana also excelled, just two of the sizeable clutch of players who helped Argentina reach the semi-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013.
Humberto Grondona has been in coaching for more than 20 years now, spending the last four of them in charge of Argentina’s national youth teams. Having taken the U-17s to the last four in the UAE two years ago, he is now preparing for his second consecutive world finals. The 57-year-old Grondona, who is also a journalist, has a point to prove, having failed to guide Mexico to the 2005 U-20 world finals in the Netherlands.
FIFA U-20 World Cup record
Though absent from Turkey 2013, Argentina boast an outstanding record in the competition, having won it six times, more than any other nation. The first of those triumphs came when Diego Maradona swept all before him at Japan 1979, and has since been followed by victories in 1995, 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2007.
What they said
“There’s no better defence than a good attack, and this is a team that scores goals, goals, goals. I’m proud at what they’ve achieved. It’s not easy to come and play a final against Uruguay and in front of 50,000 people and win it. We need to start preparing for the World Cup now. Adapting to the time difference will be crucial.”
Humberto Grondona, Argentina coach.