Despite Venezuela's loss to hosts China PR in the girls’ final, Peru's hard-earned victory against favourites Korea Republic in the Boys’ Youth Olympic Football Tournament Nanjing 2014 served up a second successive Olympic gold for South America, following Bolivia’s title triumph four years ago.
Finalists set the stage ablaze
Korea Republic and Peru more than earned their place in the final through some scintillating football, albeit with contrasting styles. While CONMEBOL U-15 champions Peru displayed individual technical brilliance, an ability to read the game and plenty of neat interplay, the South Koreans relied on their tight organisation, rigorous tactical discipline, and superior fitness and speed. The sides each conceded three goals to share the honour of joint-best defence, although Korea Republic were the tournament’s top scorers with 16 goals over four games, whereas Peru boasted a 100 per cent win rate.
Wizards mesmerise viewers
The Olympic showcase offered up a dizzying array of young talent that at times left the spectators spellbound. Peruvian pair Christopher Olivares and Gerald Tavara caught the eye with some close ball control and mazy runs, as did Icelandic impresario Kolbeinn Finnsson with his all-round vision and incisive early passing; the blonde-haired teenager fashioned numerous opportunities out of nothing with his confident, probing play and eye for an opening. Despite falling short of a podium place, Cape Verde Islands provided moments of magic through players such as Andradino, whose excellent awareness, lightning speed and scoring touch earned him a total of three goals.
The inaugural Boys’ YOFT in Singapore saw the emergence of super-sub Luis Banegas. The young Bolivian came into the tournament carrying an injury but was sent on with his side reduced to ten players in the final against Haiti, before netting a brace that helped his team triumph 5-0. Four years later in Nanjing, a succession of substitutes have been vying to eclipse that feat. Icelandic forward Helgi Gudjonsson netted a hat-trick after coming on in the second period of the opener against Honduras, before breaking the deadlock just one minute into his second-half cameo against semi-final opponents Korea Republic. The South Koreans’ Joo Hwimin was similarly effective off the bench, scoring three goals in his two substitute appearances, including the equaliser against Iceland.
Set-piece specialists steal the show
The Peruvian boys demonstrated some fancy footwork throughout the competition, especially in dead-ball situations where they had a profusion of set-piece specialists to call on. Both goals in the opening win over Iceland came from free-kicks, including Gerald Tavara’s sublime effort that put the young Blanquirrojas 2-0 ahead. In the second game against Honduras, two spot-kicks set the South Americans on the way to a 3-1 victory, with Inca forward Franklin Gil scoring one and winning the other. Peru also exploited their long-range shooting strengths, most notably with captain Fernando Pacheco’s looping effort from distance that clinched victory in the finale.
Stars and surprises
Having propelled the young Taeguk Warriors to footballing gold at last year’s Asian Youth Games in Nanjing, Korean striker Lee Jiyong and midfielder Jeong Wooyeong were given star billing on their return to the ancient Chinese metropolis. The attack-minded duo duly lived up to expectations by plundering three goals apiece, but their thunder was stolen by rookie team-mate Kim Gyuhyeong on his first trip to the city, the Ulsan Hyundai midfielder finding the net five times and creating three assists.
Peru oozed star quality in every department, although Franklin Gil’s equaliser in the final against Korea Republic earned lavish praise from Inca coach Juan Jose Ore, who hopes that the striker will go on to become the beating heart of the team. Although Honduras only collected one victory, Catracho centre-forward Paolo Belloni showed glimpses of the potential that earned him a dream move to Italian club Genoa.
Nordic outsiders Iceland burst onto the scene in style, defying most pundits' pre-tournament predictions by clinching the bronze medal in their first FIFA competition. In particular, hat-trick hero Gudjonsson became the darling of fans and media with his virtuoso performance in the opener against Honduras. African dark horses Cape Verde Islands also punched above their weight for a nation of just 500,000 people, bouncing back from a 5-0 loss to Korea Republic by routing Vanuatu 7-1. Ricardo, who showed well in the back line and as a winder bagged a treble in that victory, while jet-heeled forward Andradino also struck twice.
Vanuatu were unable to emulate their fifth-place finish of four years ago, slipping to the bottom of the pile and conceding 21 goals compared with four last time round. However, the Oceanian minnows’ indomitable spirit was rewarded against Cape Verde Islands, when Lauren Saurei struck their only goal of the campaign.
"This victory means so much more to us than winning the gold medal. I’m very happy and overjoyed about the player’s achievements here. This group of players has a lot of potential and by the time they are 20 years old they will have developed and progressed even more. They still need to continue honing themselves and improving, of course. I hope that [they] can realise our dream of returning to the World Cup as soon as possible." Peru coach Juan Jose Ore
Host city and stadiums
Jiangning Sports Centre (Nanjing)
52 (an average of 4.73 per game)
Kim Gyuhyeong (KOR): 5 goals and 3 assists
Helgi Gudjonsson (ISL): 5 goals
Franklin Gil (PER): 3 goals and 1 assist
FIFA Fair Play Trophy
Number of spectators
116,572 (an average of 10,597 per game)