x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

U17 World Cup round-up: Argentina grit it past Tunisia, and Uruguay shock Slovakia

After a tense first half the Argentines pull away while Uruguay counter-attack from the start for a change.

Argentina's Sebastian Driussi, left, vies for the ball against Marouane Sahraoui of Tunisia. Marwan Naamani / AFP
Argentina's Sebastian Driussi, left, vies for the ball against Marouane Sahraoui of Tunisia. Marwan Naamani / AFP

DUBAI // a

Argentina 3 (Ferreyra 2, Ibanez 53, Driussi 73)

Tunisia 1 (Haj Hassan 43)

Man of the match – Sebastian Driussi (Argentina)

DUBAI // The motor coach that carried the Argentina team to the Rashid Stadium on Tuesday night heaved under the strain of song and dance.

At its head was Sebastian Driussi, the main frontman, leading from the front as he does on the pitch, whistle blaring and voice creaking. The South American champions had arrived.

Maybe they forgot there was a place in the quarter-finals of the Under 17 World Cup at stake. Blocking their path, a Tunisian side who had impressed throughout their Group D campaign, a team intent on providing their support a little cheer of their own.

Yet Argentina disappeared into the Dubai night exactly as they emerged, albeit with one significant difference. As they boarded the bus fresh from another excellent triumph, friends and family lined the stadium exit to serenade their young heroes. They found an even greater admirer slightly closer to home.

“I’d like to congratulate my whole team, my boys,” said Humberto Grondona, the Argentina coach. “Because what they did was magnificent.

“This World Cup is a very tough one, and we knew Tunisia were a very strong rival, but I’m very happy with how we managed the game. I’m extremely satisfied.”

Although Tunisia proved Grondona correct, his side deserved the victory. They transported their pre-match mood onto the pitch, scoring the opener on two minutes via German Ferryera’s volley.

Tunisia seemed set to be blown away by Argentina’s attack, but they reacted positively and drew level moments before half-time, when Hazem haj Hassan coolly slotted home.

However, Argentina’s Joaquin Ibanez restored their lead on 53 minutes with a clever back-heel move. Driussi guaranteed his team’s progression 20 minutes later when his shot squirmed into the Tunisian goal via the goalkeeper’s palms and the upright.

Now, a formidable Ivory Coast await in the next round, although when quizzed about Argentina’s newest opponents, Grondona remained somewhat cryptic.

“I prefer not to talk about them, because if I say what I want to I’ll get in trouble,” he said. “Maybe some other day I’ll talk about it, but today is not the day.”

Today was simply the time to rejoice in another triumph; victory No 3 to continue their quest for a first U17 world title. For Tunisia, they leave the tournament at exactly the same stage as they did in 2007, their last appearance.

An improvement on six years ago was the goal, but coach Abdelhay ben Soltane was not bowed by another last-16 departure.

“Our plan was to go further, but I am really proud of my players,” he said. “I’m happy with what we did. We’ve created good footballers for the future.”

As for the victors, the mood that accompanied their noisy entrance could lift them a long way.

“We’ll do our very best to stay on this path and take the next step in this World Cup,” Grondona said. “The boys feel at their top level; they’re doing well and with fine team spirit.”

jmcauley@thenational.ae

Uruguay 4 Slovakia 2

Uruguay surprised Slovakia with three first-half goals to run out 4-2 winners in Ras Al Khaimah. Uruguay, who had come back from deficit in their last two games, were helped on their way with two goals from Leandro Otormin, a penalty taken by Kevin Mendez and another from Franco Acosta. Tomas Vestenicky and Michal Siplak got consolatory goals for Slovakia. Uruguay are runners-up from the last edition in Mexico.

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