Uruguay 2018 beckons for South American hopefuls

With Uruguay set to host the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup later in the year, the teams lining up in this month’s South American U-17 Women’s Championship have every incentive to finish among the top two and book their places in the age group’s showpiece tournament.

The tournament

· When: 7 to 25 March

· Where: San Juan (Argentina)

· Who: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru (Group A); Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, and Bolivia (Group B)

· At stake: two places at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Uruguay 2018.

· How: the first round is comprised of two round-robin groups of five, with the top two in each group advancing to the final four-team phase, which also follows a round-robin format. The top two will advance to the world finals.

· NB: if Uruguay finish in the top two of the final four-team phase, the third-placed side in the competition will progress to the world finals.

The favourites Their status as two-time reigning champions makes Venezuela the team to beat. Though the side is no longer coached by Kenneth Zseremeta, the architect of their historic fourth-place finish at Jordan 2016. His replacement, Jose Catoya, has the necessary experience to guide La Vinotinto to their third consecutive world finals.

Though Brazil have not won the continental crown since 2012 and failed the following year to qualify for Costa Rica 2014, they are strongly fancied to progress on this occasion. The strongest force in South American women’s football, A Canarinha are always there or thereabouts, and there is no reason to suggest they will not be in firm contention this time around.

Third at the last two South American U-17 Championships, Paraguay should be a force to contend with again, while Colombia, who won the title in 2008 and finished runners-up in 2012, can also be expected to mount a challenge.

Uruguay to test their mettle Though Uruguay have already qualified for the world finals as the hosts, the continental championship will provide them with another valuable dress rehearsal following a four-team friendly tournament earlier in the year, in which they beat Chile, drew with Argentina, and lost to USA.

“My players have done really well at domestic level and they need to test themselves on the international scene now,” Charrúa coach Ariel Longo told FIFA.com. “The South American championships are a really good yardstick for them and for us as the coaching staff.”

Did you know?

· Brazil have qualified for four of the five U-17 Women’s World Cups held to date, more than any other South American side.

· Colombia, Venezuela, and Paraguay are next on the list with three appearances each, followed by Uruguay and Chile with one apiece.

· Uruguay’s lone appearance came at Trinidad and Tobago 2010, the nation’s first at any major FIFA women’s competition.

· Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador have never reached the world finals in this age group.