07 July, 2011

U-17 Worlds Semifinals Tonight

The semifinals of the U-17 FIFA World Championships will take place tonight. First, Brazil and Uruguay meet at Estadio Guadalajara. Secondly, Germany takes on the hosts Mexico at Nuevo Estadio Corona in Torreon. My picks for the finals are Brazil and Germany, but don't count out the home team. Both Brazil and Germany have been vulnerable in the previous matches, and can be beaten, but my opinion is that they will both win tonight.

Brazil got to the semifinals by taking a 3-0 lead over Japan. Japan fought back to cut the lead to 3-2 but it was not enough. Brazil are led by forward Ademilson of Sao Paulo, who led Brazil's U-16 league with 23 goals in 2009, and free kick specialist Adryan (Flamengo), who has drawn the interest of Manchester United, among others. Lucas Piazon is making a highly anticipated move from Sao Paulo to Chelsea in January, but has disappointed so far, with a suspension in the quarterfinals for multiple yellow cards. His replacement, Leo (Cruziero), has been excellent. in the round of sixteen against Ecuador, Lucas Piazon was replaced by Leo in the 85th minute and Leo promptly scored in the 87th. Leo was Brazil's top goal scorer in qualifying and has been impressive off the bench. However, the tournament is not over and Lucas Piazon still has two more matches to impress the world.

Uruguay defeated Cinderella story Uzbekistan 2-0 in the quarterfinals. The Celeste were group runners-up, losing their final match of the group stage 2-0 to England. Uruguay forward Juan Cruz Mascia led all South American players in goals throughout qualifying. Chelsea is interested in purchasing Mascia from his club in Uruguay. Sadly, Mascia was injured during the group stage and will not participate in the semifinals. The Uruguay team is a predominantly defensive team, with only two goals allowed the entire tournament. Jonathan Cubero has been called the best goalkeeper of the tournament, and even assisted on the game's only goal in the 95th minute against Rwanda in the group stage. Without that dramatic win, Uruguay would have been eliminated before the knockout round even began. Cubero has actually taken the field for his club Cerro in Uruguay, one of the only U-17 players to appear in the top division of their country.

Mexico and Germany are the only teams remaining in the tournament who have won every game so far. Germany is led by forward Samed Yesil (Bayer Leverkusen Juniors), defender Mitchell Weiser (FC Koln Juniors), and goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos (Stuttgart Juniors), who has allowed only three goals the whole tournament. Germany got here by taking a 3-0 lead over England in the quarterfinal, with the first and third coming from Samed Yesil, only to see England fall just short of a comeback with two late goals. The superior goalkeeping of Odisseas Vlachodimos gave Germany the win over an attacking England team.

Mexico got to the semifinals with a 2-1 victory over France in the quarterfinals. Mexico's star forwards Carlos Fierro (Guadalajara Chivas Reserves) and Marco Bueno (Leon) were impressive, with Fierro scoring the winning goal early in the second half to break a 1-1 tie. Mexico's goalkeeper Richard Sanchez is currently on the FC Dallas roster in MLS. This is Mexico's strongest U-17 team since they won the U-17 World Championship in 2005, led by current National Team stars Giovani dos Santos, Efrain Juarez, Hector Moreno, and Golden Boot Winner Carlos Vela.

Finally, let there be no doubt: the best U-17 player in the World is Souleymane Coulibaly of Ivory Coast, who scored an impressive 9 goals in only 4 matches. Coulibaly plays for Siena in Serie A. The reason Brazil has not won all their matches is because Coulibaly scored three goals in a 3-3 draw in the final group stage game between Brazil and Ivory Coast.

photo: FIFA

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