Record crowd sees Zurich defend title
© Foto-net

Over two days, a record crowd of more than 14,300 spectators flocked to the Buchlern sports complex in Zurich for the 75th edition of the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup. They were not disappointed, as FC Zurich retained their crown at the prestigious youth tournament.

In a one-sided final, the local team raced to a 4-0 half-time lead against Brazilian side Botafogo FR, adding a fifth after the break to take the trophy for a second successive year. To cap it all off, custodian Thierry Ursprung was awarded the adidas Golden Glove as the competition’s best goalkeeper after keeping clean sheets in all five games, as well as saving a penalty in the final.

Quick out of the blocks
Zurich took full advantage of playing in front of a home crowd and stormed through Group A without conceding, beating both Zenit St. Petersburg and FC Blue Stars 2-0. A goalless draw with Manchester United followed, before FCZ underlined their class with a 4-0 thrashing of FC Turin.

The Red Devils also managed three victories and a draw, but missed out on the final due to their inferior goal difference. Instead, the English side had to settle for a berth in the match for third place after finishing second in the group. However, striker Adnan Januzaj’s selection as the tournament’s best player did offer a measure of consolation.

Zenit secured third spot after narrow victories over Turin (1-0) and hosts Blue Stars (2-1), who finished bottom of the pile in Group A after a 1-0 loss to the Italians.

Botafogo on fire
Botafogo raced to the Group B summit and reached the final unbeaten after victories over Grasshopper Club Zurich (2-1), FC Basel (2-0), Borussia Dortmund (2-1), and a surprising 1-1 draw with WYNRS New Zealand.

Despite opening with a 3-2 defeat against Dortmund, Basel came home second in the group. A 2-0 triumph over the Kiwis and a 2-1 win against Grasshopper helped them into the third-place play-off. Dortmund finished third after failing to follow up their promising start with another success, only managing subsequent goalless draws with the Oceanians and Grasshopper.

The latter picked up their first win in the final round of group games, causing enthusiastic celebrations among the onlookers. Fourth place was the reward after emerging 2-0 victors against the New Zealanders, who propped up the rest of the table.

Tense finale
However, there was a silver lining for the young Kiwis, who are coached by former FIFA World Cup™ participant Wynton Rufer. In a hard-fought battle for ninth place, WYNRS came out on top in a penalty shoot-out to end the tournament on a high note.

Grasshopper also had reason to cheer at the end. The 3-1 win over FC Turin was their second victory in five games and demonstrated that the club boasts more quality in its ranks than their seventh-placed finish reflects.

The match for fifth went right down to the wire. Dortmund and Zenit held nothing back and the deadlock was only broken by a late goal from the Russians.

FC Basel came out on top in the match for third place after deservedly beating Manchester United 1-0.

Final standings:

1. FC Zurich
2. Botafogo FR
3. FC Basel
4. Manchester United
5. Zenit St. Petersburg
6. Borussia Dortmund
7. Grasshopper Zurich
8. FC Turin
9. WYNRS New Zealand
10. FC Blue Stars

Golden Ball:
Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United)

Golden Glove:
Thierry Ursprung (FC Zurich)

Fair Play Award:
FC Basel