Ever since the Estadio Azteca was announced as the venue for the final of the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup, all neutrals and fervent local fans hoped the home side would reach the final. Not only did Raul Gutierrez’s fabulous side find their way to the ultimate match at the hallowed ground, but they beat Uruguay 2-0 to maintain their perfect record of seven played and seven won at the finals, lifting the trophy in front of nearly 100,000 fans in a record-breaking attendance figure for the junior competition.
Solid from back to front, the young Mexicans prepared for the tournament for well over a year, and the attention to detail showed. Led by outstanding strikers Carlos Fierro and Marco Bueno, they roared through the group stages, beating Korea DPR in their opener after going a goal down and then getting the better of both Congo and European champions Netherlands.
In the knockout phases, Panama, France and Germany felt the Mexican sting in tense contests. Uruguay were expected to be the trickiest test yet in the 10 July final, with Fabian Coito’s men preferring a tactical, counter-attacking plan to the kind of open football you often see at this age level. The Celeste indeed did put up stiff resistance, hitting the post twice, but Mexico made their fans jump for joy and lifted their second U-17 world title in the space of just six years.
“This is a special team,” said coach Gutierrez, himself a former Mexico international defender. “I love this team, I love my job and this is a wonderful day.” Mexico’s performances were such that the team swept the top-player awards, with Julio Gomez picking up the adidas Golden Ball, Jorge Espericueta grabbing the Silver one and Fierro laying hands on the Bronze.
New boys and German firepower
Tournament debutants were out in force in the finals in Mexico. Rwanda overcame their troubled recent past and even earned a point for their efforts in a tough Group C in Pachuca, while Panama reached the second round with a determined performance. Uzbekistan were the most impressive of the new boys, and they made Asia proud with a run to the quarter-finals with a stylish, short-passing game that was eventually cut down by the shrewd and clever Uruguayans on their way to the final.
History of another kind was made over in Pachuca as well. Canada goalkeeper Quillan Roberts managed to earn his side a draw against England after his long kick up the pitch bounced off the Hidalgo turf and into the back of the net. It was the first-ever goal scored by a goalkeeper at any FIFA football competition.
Deserving honourable mentions behind the smashing Mexicans are a number of teams that put on wonderful performances between 18 June and 10 July. Germany were the outstanding attacking force of the finals, scoring 24 goals in the space of just seven games, six of them coming from the impressive Samed Yesil, who set up a further five. Steffen Freund’s men were only bested after a dramatic 3-2 reverse to the hosts in Torreon in the semi-final stage.
Brazil, for their part, put on a show of flicks and tricks in their home base of Guadalajara with creators Adryan and Lucas Piazon and striker Ademilson leading the way. Their glory run came to an end, however, when they ran into the hyper-organised Uruguayans, who beat them 3-0 on the break in the last four.
Burkina Faso, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Rwanda, Australia, Japan, Korea DPR, Uzbekistan, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Canada, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, USA, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Uruguay
* Host cities and stadiums*
Guadalajara (Estadio Guadalajara), Mexico City (Estadio Azteca), Monterrey (Estadio Universitario), Morelia (Estadio Morelos), Pachuca (Estadio Hidalgo), Queretaro (Estadio Corregidora), Torreon (Estadio Torreon)
No. of goals
158 (an average of 3.04 per game)
9 - Souleymane Coulibaly (CIV)
6 - Samed Yesil (GER)
5 - Adryan (BRA), Ademilson (BRA), Yassine Benzia (FRA)