TOURNAMENT REVIEWAs soon as they learned that their country was to host the FIFA U-20 World Cup, the Colombian officials set about organising what they hoped would be the best world youth tournament in history. It certainly was memorable, particularly for Brazil, who shrugged off Neymar’s absence to win the competition in style. The *Seleção *were crowned champions for the fifth time, and ended as the tournament’s most lethal finishers with 18 goals.
Having lost the final of the 2009 edition to Ghana, Ney Franco’s young squad avenged that defeat by winning the tournament for the first time since Dani Alvez and Co lifted the trophy in the United Arab Emirates in 2003.
With the safe hands of goalkeeper Gabriel, the solid presence of central defender Bruno Uvini and the energy of full-back Danilo, Brazil were certainly well covered at the rear. The side also boasted the talents of Casemiro, who shone as a right winger, as well as fleet-footed playmaker Philippe Coutinho and clinical finisher Henrique. The latter’s goalscoring exploits saw him scoop both the adidas Golden Boot and the adidas Golden Ball awards. Then, of course, there was Oscar, who led Brazil to victory in the final with a brilliant hat-trick against Portugal – the first treble scored in a FIFA U-20 World Cup final.
The champions made an unconvincing start to the competition with a 1-1 draw against Egypt, although they would soon find their form with a 3-0 win over Austria and an emphatic 4-0 defeat of Panama. “We knew the team would get better with each match, as we didn’t have too much time to prepare in Brazil,” Danilo told FIFA.com. The results certainly proved him right, as the *Seleção *went on to crush Saudi Arabia 3-0 in the last 16 in one of the best matches of the tournament.
Goalkeeper Gabriel was Brazil’s hero against Spain in the quarter-finals, helping his side draw 2-2 and subsequently triumph in the penalty shoot-out. Henrique then took centre stage in the semis, netting a brace to seal a 2-0 win over Mexico. It was Oscar, however, who stole the show in the final against Portugal at El Campin in Bogota. The No11 scored a marvellous hat-trick to fire his side to a 3-2 victory and a long-awaited fifth U-20 world title.
“We needed a victory like this after the disappointment of the FIFA U-17 World Cup and the Copa America,” said Brazilian hero Oscar, trophy in hand. “It hadn’t been a great year for Brazilian football, but this win will give us a great boost ahead of 2014.”
Record crowds in ColombiaThe tournament was a veritable celebration of Colombian football from start to finish and went a long way to healing old wounds caused by the country’s withdrawal from hosting the 1986 FIFA World Cup™. Fans turned out in force in the country’s eight host cities, and their support helped break the attendance record set in Egypt two years ago. A total of 1,309,929 spectators attended Colombia 2011, which saw the launch of a new environmental programme and featured a range of activities under the aegis of the Football For Hope project.
Unfortunately for the Colombian fans, *Eduardo Lara’s *Cafateros did not progress beyond the quarter-finals, despite a promising start aided by the skills of James Rodriguez and Michael Ortega, and the goalscoring feats of Luis Muriel. Their dreams were shattered by Mexico on this occasion, who helped strengthen Mexican football’s burgeoning reputation by finishing third.
Super substitute Alexandre Lacazette’s goals fired France to their best ever FIFA U-20 World Cup finish, with *Les Bleuets’ *eventually falling to an extremely well-organised Portuguese side in the semi-finals. For his part, Portugal keeper Mika had an exceptional tournament, forming part of what proved to be a near-impenetrable defence. The Iberians’ backline was not breached until the final, and their run of 575 minutes without conceding is a new record. Nelson Oliveira took care of goalscoring duties at the other end, and his strikes helped Portugal to a well-deserved runners-up spot.
That said, it was not all plain sailing for the losing finalists, who laboured to victory in the last 16 against a Guatemala side that surprised almost everyone by reaching the knockout stages with a goal difference of -10. Portugal then edged out Argentina on penalties in the quarter-finals, a game that saw the *Albiceleste *equal Brazil’s tournament record of 18 consecutive matches without defeat. Meanwhile, Nigeria scored 15 goals in five matches, but were unable to reach the last four in what was a disappointing tournament for the African participants. The competition’s Asian contingent also found the going tough, but Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia did at least manage to reach the last 16.
ParticipantsArgentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, Egypt, England, France, Guatemala, Korea DPR, Korea Republic, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, New Zealand, Panama, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Uruguay
Final rankings1. Brazil
Host cities and stadiumsArmenia (Estadio Centenario), Barranquilla (Estadio Metropolitano), Bogota (Estadio El Campin), Cali (Estadio Olimpico), Cartagena (Estadio Jaime Moron Leon), Manizales (Estadio Palogrande), Medellin (Estadio Atanasio Girardot), Pereira (Estadio Hernan Ramírez Villegas).
Total goals132 (average 2.53 per match)
Top scorersHenrique (Brazil) – 5
Alvaro Vasquez (Spain) – 5
Alexandre Lacazette (France) - 5
Awardsadidas Golden Ball: Henrique (Brazil)
adidas Golden Boot: Henrique (Brazil)
adidas Golden Glove: Mika (Portugal)