Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Brazil bag their 10th under-20 Sudamericano

Brazil have been crowned South American under-20 champions in Venezuela without kicking a ball.

The 2-2 draw between Uruguay and Paraguay meant that Brazil could not be caught at the top of the final group stage. The result delivered Brazil their tenth under-20 Sudamericano and means the squad now travel to the World Cup in Egypt as hot favourites.

Uruguay tried keeping the pressure on Brazil and they took the lead against Paraguay through Jonathan Urretaviscaya in the 13th minute in their final game. The winger who plays his club football in Portugal with Benfica slotted home a cool finish to give Uruguay a dream start.

The joy was short lived for the Uruguayans as Paraguay levelled two minutes later when poor defending allowed Aldo Paniagua in to equalise.

This goal saw Paraguay take hold of the game as they sought revenge for their first round 4-2 defeat to Uruguay. Paraguay took the lead on the half hour mark as Paniagua once again popped up in the right place at the right time.

Uruguay came out galvanised after the break and looked to get back into the game. A bombardment of the Paraguayan goal followed with substitutes Abel Hernandez and Santiago Garcia impressing for Uruguay.

An equaliser eventually came 15 minutes from time when Hernandez struck from range and Uruguay continued to press and look to breach the Paraguay defence for a third time.

A winning goal did not come and Uruguay had to settle for a place at the World Cup rather than claim the South American title.

Four wins on the spin had propelled Brazil to the top of the final hexagonal stage of the competition. Wins over Uruguay, Argentina, Venezuela and Colombia put the Canarinha into such an unassailable lead they were able to lose their final game against Paraguay with the trophy already in their grasp.

After their point against Uruguay it was Paraguay who found themselves with something to play for against incumbent champions Brazil in the last game of the tournament. A win would guarantee Paraguay a place at the under-20 World Cup and keep football in the country riding on the crest of a wave following the recent good results of the senior team.

However Brazil seemed determined to go out in style and peppered the Paraguay goal from the get go. Good efforts from Giuliano and Alan Kardec were saved in style by Joel Silva in the Paraguayan goal and star striker Walter fluffed a gilt edged chance for Brazil.

Joel Silva was eventually beaten in the second half by a wicked free-kick from midfield wizard Douglas Costa, this time it was the woodwork that came to Paraguay’s rescue.

Then the Brazilian goalkeeper, Rafael, was called upon to make a routine save after being a virtual spectator all game and he committed a howler.

This gaff allowed Hernan Perez to fire home and put Paraguay into an expected lead very much against the run of play.

Brazil continued to mount wave after wave of attacks but Joel Silva was not to be beaten and his man of the match performance brought home three points, the runners-up spot and a place at the World Cup in Egypt for Paraguay.

Brazil had previously failed to convince in the first round group stage with a defeat against Uruguay and a draw against Paraguay. Question marks were appearing above much hyped players such as Douglas Costa and Walter.

Their division for the first round stage certainly lived up to its billing as The Group of Death with qualifiers Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay claiming the top three places in the final hexagonal group.

These three teams will now travel to the under-20 World Cup in Egypt later this year along with hosts Venezuela who finished up fourth.

One team that won’t be travelling to North Africa is current under-20 word champions Argentina and participants in the World Cup for the past 16 years.

Argentina’s campaign eventually came to an end with a one-nil defeat to Colombia, the other team to miss out on a World Cup berth from the final hexagonal tournament.

Argentina's exemplary record at this level has seen then win five of the last seven under-20 World Cups but they will not be there to defend their title this time around.

The Argentines only managed to record one victory at the tournament. This two-one win against a Peru team who lost every game was backed up with five draws and three defeats.

Tim Sturtridge

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