- The Netherlands put in a convincing performance to defeat Paraguay
- Ali Avila’s towering header sends Mexico into the last four
- The two teams will meet in the first semi-final on 14 November
At the conclusion of two high-octane matches on Sunday, the Netherlands and Mexico became the first teams to advance to the semi-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019™.
The two-time European champions continued their resurgent form; they have now scored 11 goals and conceded just two in their last three matches. This proficiency up front and at the back is reinforced by their effective and attractive style of play, an area in which they were clearly superior to Paraguay. The Oranje’s resounding 4-1 victory sees them claim a place in the final four for the first time since 2005.
Coincidentally, that semi-final ended in a 4-0 loss at the hands of the team they will now face (again) on Thursday, Mexico. El Tri struggled to handle an assertive Korea Republic in the first half, but as the game wore on they gained a foothold and eventually scored a winner 13 minutes from time, qualifying for the semi-finals for the fifth time in tournament history.
These two matches, which were attended by over 5,000 fans, brought Vitoria’s hosting duties at Brazil 2019 to a close.
Hansen edges closer
Netherlands striker Sontje Hansen now has six goals to his name and looks odds-on to win the adidas Golden Boot. In Vitoria on Sunday afternoon, the clinical Dutchman scored a gem of a goal, taking the ball in his stride and chipping it beautifully over onrushing Paraguay goalkeeper Angel Gonzalez to make it 2-0 after 40 minutes. He then proceeded to set up two more goals for his team-mates, increasing his total number of assists in the tournament to three.
Third but not out
For the first time since the tournament was extended to 24 teams in 2007, two teams who finished third in their groups have reached the semi-finals. Both Mexico and the Netherlands flirted with elimination at the group stage, but they survived due to high-scoring victories in their third and final matches.
Known for their ability to compete for the entire 90 minutes, Mexico have scored nine of their 12 goals in the second half at Brazil 2019. Against Korea Republic, it was Ali Avila’s impressive 77th minute header that finally broke the deadlock.
Duarte not done yet
Diego Duarte scored Paraguay’s lone goal versus the Netherlands, but that still leaves him trailing Julio Cesar Romero, who holds the Albiroja record of 12 at youth level, by one. Duarte now has 11, four of which he scored in Brazil. Will he be able to add to his tally at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Indonesia 2021?