A compelling first round of the U-20 South American Championship has come to an end, with the 20 games having served up no fewer than 48 goals en route to determining the six teams that will battle it out in the final round-robin phase. They will be playing for more than just continental bragging rights; up for grabs are four tickets to the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017, which will take place from 20 May to 11 June.
Hosts Ecuador have made it through from Group A alongside Colombia and Brazil, while Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela progressed from Group B. Paraguay, Chile, Peru and Bolivia have all packed their bags after being knocked out.
Roared on by the home crowd, the Ecuadorians won their group in striking fashion. Not only did they hit the net seven times, but these seven goals were scored by seven different players.
Colombia also caught the eye going forward, with Ever Valencia and Damir Ceter both impressing. Brazil, on the other hand, have only exhibited glimpses of the attacking flair for which they are renowned, while showing themselves to be a solid, well-drilled unit.
The fight for first place was an extremely close-run thing, however: the top three all finished with seven points and a plus-one goal difference, meaning that the standings were decided by goals scored.
*Argentina and Uruguay call the shots in Group B
*With Rodrigo Bentancur pulling the strings and three-goal Rodrigo Amaral finishing with aplomb, table-topping Uruguay look strong contenders to reach Korea Republic. As for Argentina, they are currently the competition's leading scorers with nine goals, so it is little surprise that their star men have been the forwards Lautaro Martinez, Tomas Conechny and Marcelo Torres. Indeed, Torres sits at the summit of the individual scoring charts with four strikes.
Venezuela have the worst record of the six sides that have advanced. Curiously enough, La Vinotinto are still winless in the tournament, although they have proven themselves to be a very tough nut to crack, having drawn all four of their matches.
The final round-robin stage kicks off this Monday, 30 January, when Ecuador lock horns with Brazil, Colombia take on Venezuela and historic rivals Argentina and Uruguay face off yet again. Fans will be hoping for a repeat of the fireworks from the meeting between La Albiceleste* and *La Celeste* *in the first round, which ended 3-3. The competition concludes on Saturday 11 February, with the final round of games taking place in Quito.