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A look back at the Under-17 World Cup

U17WorldCup (Reuters)


One of the better Under-17 World Cups in recent memory drew to a close on Sunday with Mexico knocking off Uruguay 2-0 in front of nearly 100,000 fans at the fabled Azteca Stadium. The hosts fully deserved to claim the trophy after surviving the much tougher side of the draw, and a second Under-17 title in four editions stamps Mexico as one of the rising powers in international soccer.

Such was the wealth of talent at Raul Gutierrez's disposal that more ballyhooed stars like Carlos Fierro and Arturo Gonzalez were kept relatively in check, and Mexico still controlled the match throughout. Defender Antonio Briseno actually broke the deadlock midway through the first half, while Fierro and strike partner Marco Bueno squandered numerous opportunities to seal the win.

Uruguay struggled to overcome the absence of Rodrigo Aguirre, who went out early with a head injury, and Giovani Casillas finally settled matters with a goal deep in stoppage time. It was a fitting climax to a day that also included a sensational third-place contest between Germany and Brazil, as the Germans rallied from a two-goal deficit to earn a 4-3 victory at Azteca.

 Steffen Freund's side finished with an astonishing 24 goals in six games, and the epic semifinal against Mexico must go down as one of the great matches in the history of the competition. Talented striker Samed Yesil failed to add to his total on Sunday, but Okan Aydin picked up the slack, finding the back of the net twice, while Koray Guenter and Levent Aycicek added goals.

Brazil improved upon its performance from two years ago when a squad featuring Neymar and Philippe Coutinho failed to advance past the group stage, but Emerson Avila will wonder why his back-line played so poorly in the last two games. Ademilson proved to be a revelation with five goals, the third highest total behind Yesil (6) and Ivory Coast standout Souleymane Coulibaly (9).

Coulibaly grabbed most of the headlines early on and the globalization of the sport was on full display with the likes of Japan and Uzbekistan playing some of the most outstanding soccer of the opening rounds. The Japanese produced the largest victory of the entire tournament with a 6-0 thrashing of New Zealand before being eliminated by Brazil in another memorable encounter.

England performed better than usual by reaching the quarterfinals, while France unearthed two exciting prospects in Abdallay Yaisien and Yassine Benzia. Uruguay was denied its first-ever title at this level, but the future remains bright for the South Americans. Just not as bright as Mexico's, however, which continues to reap the benefits from a greater emphasis on its youth program.

It remains to be seen whether Fierro can follow in the footsteps of his idol Javier Hernandez, or if Bueno is another Giovani dos Santos in the making. But Mexico is beginning to produce talented players in bunches who figure to attract plenty of attention from European clubs, and could represent excellent options for the senior team down the road.

Here are five players who impressed over the past month:

Souleymane Coulibaly, Ivory Coast

Coulibaly certainly made the most of his time in Mexico, bagging nine goals in four games to finish as the tournament's top scorer. He has already drawn comparisons to Didier Drogba and Real Madrid is rumored to be interested in his services. Coulibaly began his assault by finding the back of the net in the 2-1 loss to Australia in the opening match, and there was more to come.

The Ivory Coast hitman struck four times against Denmark and added three goals in a thrilling draw with Brazil to conclude the group stage. His final tally came in the second-round loss to France, as Coulibaly matched the previous tournament record held by Florent Sinama Pongolle, who achieved the feat 10 years ago and with the benefit of three extra games.

Julio Gomez, Mexico

Gomez didn't even start the final against Uruguay, but he received the loudest ovation of any Mexican player after coming on midway through the second half. The enduring image of this tournament will be his spectacular overhead kick that stunned Germany in the semifinal, and the ensuing celebration with Gomez running around the field with his head heavily bandaged.

Even Mexican president Felipe Calderon was full of praise for the 16-year-old midfielder, who will return to Pachuca as a national hero. Gomez was terrific throughout the competition, displaying impressive vision and rugged determination. He also scored Mexico's opening goal in the 3-2 victory over Germany and played a part in Jorge Espericueta's equalizer late in the second half.

Mitchell Weiser, Germany

Germany was absolutely loaded with attacking talent, including striker Samed Yesil, who finished as the tournament's second-leading scorer with six goals, but no player caused more trouble for opposing defenses than right back Mitchell Weiser. His rampaging runs down wing resulted in a number of scoring opportunities in each game, and Weiser found the back of the net three times.

The 17-year-old scored against Burkina Faso and Panama in the group stage, and the United States in the second round, but his most impressive display came in the 3-2 victory over England in the quarterfinals. Weiser provided pinpoint assists for two of Germany's goals, both scored by Yesil, and his tireless energy proved crucial late in the game with England staging a comeback.

Emiliano Velazquez, Uruguay

Velazquez very nearly missed the semifinal with Brazil after picking up a knock in the victory over Uzbekistan in the previous round, but the captain recovered in time to marshal the back-line, as Uruguay stunned its South American rivals with a 3-0 win. The lopsided scoreline belies the fact that Brazil enjoyed greater possession and created a number of chances throughout the match.

Uruguay never cracked, however, as Fabian Coito's side rode a stingy defense all tournament long to reach the final. Velazquez was a big reason why and not just for his impressive leadership skills. The 17-year-old displayed tremendous composure on the ball and recovery speed to deal with talented wingers on his side of the field, as the Celeste allowed five goals in seven games.

Adryan, Brazil

Lucas Piazon arrived in Mexico with the bigger reputation given his recent transfer to Chelsea, but if not for the female fans going crazy each time he touched the ball, Piazon would've hardly been noticed at all. Just like in the South American Championships earlier this year, Adryan was Brazil's outstanding player and his suspension for the semifinal against Uruguay proved devastating.

The Flamengo playmaker was forced to drop back deep to pick up the ball because Brazil once again lacked a central midfielder capable of providing the proper link-up from defense to attack. Adryan still managed five goals, including a sensational strike against Japan in the quarterfinals, and he combined very well with Ademilson, who also outshone Piazon with five goals of his own.


  1. For my money, Ademilson was the best player in the tournament. As a young forward, he has the scoring touch, balls skills, first touch, vision and passing ability. Great player.

  2. As a rational mexico fan, I think there are a lot of reasons for optimism, based on the fact that some of our better players today were part of the 2005 generation that won the U-17. That doesn’t guarantee anything, but it’s the reason we’re optimistic.

    USA fans need to deal with it and quit being such sore losers.

  3. Abel you are my hero right now but martha doesn’t want real facts, just mind bogling hate jiber jaber.vela is going to be side by side to Nasri on the Arsenal Asia tour and racing is trying to pick up the money for gio, barrera and juarez are a signature away from Zaragoza and chicharito was part of the 2005 u17 squad until he got pulled out because of an injury.does this mean your going to win the big one? But it does mean your a top contender in your confederation for a good while.

  4. Guys, get real. If anyone could really spot which 16 year-olds would have all the talent, passion, drive, luck, brains required to become outstanding professional players and not merely more mature than his cohorts, ManU, Barcelona, Chelsea, etc. would beating a path to his or her door.

    All anyone can do is look at how players perform today against their peers and assume that tomorrow will bring more of the same. So few 16 year-olds are capable of matching 26 year-olds athleticaly, intellectually, or even in skill that it always takes a leap of faith to precict success later on.

    That said, I would rather have a large pool of potential future talent, which the U-17 tourney might be a measure of, than a meager one.

    A couple dozen players at Bradenton will never be the answer. Every MLS team should have at least 30 or so youth players on their rosters in addition to reserve teams so that they have maybe 100 players training every day with the various levels of the team. Until that happens, so that the kids who mature more slowly have a decent chance of being recognized before they decide on some other future, the US will never develop players well enough to do better than we are doing now.

    With more players at a higher level, it would have an effect on youth players at all levels since there would be a realistic chance that they could step up to the next level and the MLS teams would actually strive to identify players at the local level.

  5. Carlos, I don’t disagree that the quality of the tournament may have improved since 1980s, but let’s be realistic. The last four U17 winners are Mexico, Switzerland, Nigeria, and, again, Mexico – hardly soccer superpowers. None of these countries ever advanced past the quarterfinals in the real World Cup. On the other hand, countries like Germany, Spain, Italy, Argentina never won the U17 world cup, but it did not prevent them from winning the real World Cup. It’s good when the U17 team or even a player does well in the tournament (Mexico, Nigeria and Switzerland should be proud of their respective achievements), but it does not necessarily mean that this success would necessarily translate to the senior team level. I don’t disagree that these tournaments are helpful to the player development but they are less important than being developed at the right club and getting consistent playing time at senior level. For every Donovan or Febergas that won the U17 golden ball and had successful careers, there are other golden ball winners who had rather forgettable careers (Sergio Santamaria, Frolrent Singala-Pongolle, etc.). And success at the U17 WC is not directly correlated to investments in infrastructure, scouting and player development is much more important than a particular result at the U17 world cup. I doubt that the U17 Cup winners like Nigeria, Ghana, Mexico or even Switzerland outspent countries like Germany or Spain.

  6. forgot to mention edgardo ‘el gato’ obregon [the next messi, kun aguero, maradona(stated by the argentines)]. born in usa, but in love w/ mexican nat team and chivas (all mexican club).

  7. as for being being by argentina??? did you even watch the game??? mexico were by far the better team. mexico was cheated on the first goal (fifa apologized), the second goal was a ridiculous mistake by mexican defender, and the 3rd was from long distance. what im tryin to say is that argentina never had a CLEAR chance.

  8. @martha. name one???? gomez was face to face to barcelona scouts, before the tournament!! casillas is wanted by real madrid, arsenal, man utd; before the tournament!! fierro is wanted by arsenal, tottenham. if you dont believe look it up!!! Other youngsters: jona dos santos is still considered for the barca 1st team next season, if not then ac milan and inter milan are after him!! look it up. several mexicans are at the masia(barca youth system), including ryuken nishizawa and alvaro baque. diego martinez(scouted by zinedine zidane) just signed with REAL MADRID reserves YESTERDAY!!If youre trashing gio, last i remember, he was moppin the floor with howard!! As for vela, hes still at arsenal and is considered for next season.

    african countries have won this u17 category but look at the age scandals(some players were in their mid 20s)

    Yes, the u17 championship might not mean a lot, but its a good parameter for the youth systems in mexico in comparison with the rest of world (especially with US youth system, that got trashed by germany u17).

  9. Doesn’t matter where you were born. if a white american family moves to mexico and has a child there. is he really mexican? think about that


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