We've got more from our man in South America today, as Umbro's head scout attends the highly regarded U-17 tournament in Argentina to search for the best young players. Ever wondered what it's like to travel the world watching games of football, looking for the next big player? Here's an idea...
This tournament is certainly busy - each
group of five teams plays every two days with one team per group resting each
round. It may seem quite difficult for the young players, but looking at the
physical qualities they have shown so far, it doesn’t seem to be an issue. Today we didn’t have to make the long journey to San Luis, we all had some more
time on our hands, and I took my time to get to know the city of Mendoza by
foot. It’s a city full of life, really busy but not stressful, with many tourists
mixing with the locals, acquiring wine in the many wine shops as well as the
many climbers using the town as a stopover and rest before they tackle the
famous Aconcagua. Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Western and Southern
Hemispheres that towers over the city is situated to the immediate west.
the afternoon we headed off to the local stadium situated about 10 minutes from
our hotel. This stadium is quite modern and it is used by the Argentinean top
league team Godoy Cruz, managed currently by the very famous ex-player Martin
Palermo. The first game of the day was between Uruguay and our Peru national
team. The game proved to be quite a disappointing affair, with very few
opportunities. Uruguay scored first, taking advantage of a misjudgement by the
Peruvian goalkeeper. After a few changes in the second half, Peru got closer to
the opposition goal, managing a few shots without creating much danger and then
after some great individual play by a very good Uruguayan winger, Uruguay got
the second and final goal. In the end, a fair result.
Everyone in attendance was excited by the next game, a chance to see the always interesting Brazil versus the improving Chilean team. Brazil did not disappoint, starting the game with speed, attacking movement provided by the forward players, very good technically and also very strong and fast. After the first half, where Brazil scored the only goal of the game, we were all of the opinion that we were watching the best team seen so far.
However, Chile came out in the second half and managed to impose themselves on the game and kept the ball well, having some fun with short passes in the middle of the field with a style known here as "tiqui tiqui". Brazil however, kept controlling the game, sitting deep at the back but moving very fast once they recovered the ball. Chile left a good impression and we all thought that they probably deserved a bit more than what they got.
Day 5 and 6
Two more days of the competition, one in each group. The teams start to get to know each other better, although most of these young players have already met in international competitions, either with their national teams or at club tournaments. As the competition develops, table positions start to take place and even after two games the pressure to obtain results in order to qualify for the next phase of the competition increases.
At this event, three teams from each group will qualify for the next phase of the
competition, where they will all face each other. The four best placed teams
will then guarantee a place at the Under 17 World Cup. For
the first game of today, Ecuador faced Venezuela, who were playing their first
game of the competition, while Ecuador had already played and beaten the host
Argentina in the opening day. Surprises keep happening and Venezuela beat
Ecuador, scoring the only goal in the first half and then stopping Ecuador from
scoring despite enormous pressure and a number of opportunities. To be fair to
Ecuador, they kept trying until the last minute and probably deserved a bit
more than they got. The win for Venezuela provoked a great celebration by their
supporters, mostly as in the case of all the foreign teams, the families of the
players and staff.
The second game was between Argentina, who are always expected to perform and do well versus Paraguay, who had already left a good impression in their opening game, especially the star player of the team, already signed by a Spanish giant. Paraguay and the youngster did not disappoint, scoring two goals in the first half, one of them really fantasic, with one in reply from Argentina, increasing the pressure on the hosts.
Argentinean coach tried everything, changing the player positions constantly,
making substitutions, but Paraguay still managed to score one more goal in the
last few minutes. Now Argentina need to win both remaining games while also
hoping to see other results go their way in order to qualify for the next
phase. Unnecessary pressure for the youngsters.
The first game of the fourth day was between Bolivia, playing their first game and Chile, who had played quite well in the second half versus Brazil. This Chilean team seems to like being a goal down before they start playing their best football, and here Bolivia scored in the first half after a great through pass and a clinical finish befoe Chile took over the game and played some beautiful football creating some opportunities. However they went without scoring until about five minutes to go, too late for another goal and the game ended as a 1-1 draw.
Everyone in attendance was waiting in anticipation for the following game, between Brazil and Uruguay. Brazil is the most mature team present but we can never underestimate the combative and technically gifted players of Uruguay. Uruguay scored in the first half with a great team goal and a very good finish by one of the two mobile and strong strikers. Brazil are always expected to do well and they continued to increase the pressure and the speed of the game, creating opportunities without scoring. However, in the second half, they kept the constant pressure and movement, allowing Uruguay only a few counter attacks and managed to score the equaliser. Uruguay then had their captain sent off with a few minutes to go, but Brazil could not manage another goal and the game ended with another 1-1 draw.
The scouting mission continues with one more trip to San Luis for my final two
games of group one. The first, between Colombia and Ecuador was for me the
worst game of the competition, quite boring with both teams passing the ball
around without creating any goal opportunities.
the game, the spectators kept arriving, taking advantage of the sunny but windy
Saturday afternoon to come watch the local Argentine team take on Venezuela.
Argentina could not afford any other result but a win in order to have hopes of
staying in the competition. And they started with the will and ambition they
lacked in the first two games, coming out strong and scoring in the first few
minutes after a great finish by one of their most talented players. They
managed to score another goal not long after were always the strongest team,
grabbing a third in the second half and grab a very good result which keeps
their hopes alive.
Today, as I said above, my last two games but after six days of the event, I will
have seen at least two games featuring each team. My observations as well as
the exchange of information with the many experienced scouts should give me a
pretty good idea of the players that will have the potential to go far in the
Now, it is time for me to go on a small tour of the South Of South America, through the cities of Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Porto Alegre and finally São Paulo before returning to Europe.
I hope you have enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed writing it.