A look back at the Under-17 World Cup

U17WorldCup (Reuters)


One of the better Under-17 World Cups in recent memory drew to a close on Sunday with Mexico knocking off Uruguay 2-0 in front of nearly 100,000 fans at the fabled Azteca Stadium. The hosts fully deserved to claim the trophy after surviving the much tougher side of the draw, and a second Under-17 title in four editions stamps Mexico as one of the rising powers in international soccer.

Such was the wealth of talent at Raul Gutierrez's disposal that more ballyhooed stars like Carlos Fierro and Arturo Gonzalez were kept relatively in check, and Mexico still controlled the match throughout. Defender Antonio Briseno actually broke the deadlock midway through the first half, while Fierro and strike partner Marco Bueno squandered numerous opportunities to seal the win.

Uruguay struggled to overcome the absence of Rodrigo Aguirre, who went out early with a head injury, and Giovani Casillas finally settled matters with a goal deep in stoppage time. It was a fitting climax to a day that also included a sensational third-place contest between Germany and Brazil, as the Germans rallied from a two-goal deficit to earn a 4-3 victory at Azteca.

 Steffen Freund's side finished with an astonishing 24 goals in six games, and the epic semifinal against Mexico must go down as one of the great matches in the history of the competition. Talented striker Samed Yesil failed to add to his total on Sunday, but Okan Aydin picked up the slack, finding the back of the net twice, while Koray Guenter and Levent Aycicek added goals.

Brazil improved upon its performance from two years ago when a squad featuring Neymar and Philippe Coutinho failed to advance past the group stage, but Emerson Avila will wonder why his back-line played so poorly in the last two games. Ademilson proved to be a revelation with five goals, the third highest total behind Yesil (6) and Ivory Coast standout Souleymane Coulibaly (9).

Coulibaly grabbed most of the headlines early on and the globalization of the sport was on full display with the likes of Japan and Uzbekistan playing some of the most outstanding soccer of the opening rounds. The Japanese produced the largest victory of the entire tournament with a 6-0 thrashing of New Zealand before being eliminated by Brazil in another memorable encounter.

England performed better than usual by reaching the quarterfinals, while France unearthed two exciting prospects in Abdallay Yaisien and Yassine Benzia. Uruguay was denied its first-ever title at this level, but the future remains bright for the South Americans. Just not as bright as Mexico's, however, which continues to reap the benefits from a greater emphasis on its youth program.

It remains to be seen whether Fierro can follow in the footsteps of his idol Javier Hernandez, or if Bueno is another Giovani dos Santos in the making. But Mexico is beginning to produce talented players in bunches who figure to attract plenty of attention from European clubs, and could represent excellent options for the senior team down the road.

Here are five players who impressed over the past month:

Souleymane Coulibaly, Ivory Coast

Coulibaly certainly made the most of his time in Mexico, bagging nine goals in four games to finish as the tournament's top scorer. He has already drawn comparisons to Didier Drogba and Real Madrid is rumored to be interested in his services. Coulibaly began his assault by finding the back of the net in the 2-1 loss to Australia in the opening match, and there was more to come.

The Ivory Coast hitman struck four times against Denmark and added three goals in a thrilling draw with Brazil to conclude the group stage. His final tally came in the second-round loss to France, as Coulibaly matched the previous tournament record held by Florent Sinama Pongolle, who achieved the feat 10 years ago and with the benefit of three extra games.

Julio Gomez, Mexico

Gomez didn't even start the final against Uruguay, but he received the loudest ovation of any Mexican player after coming on midway through the second half. The enduring image of this tournament will be his spectacular overhead kick that stunned Germany in the semifinal, and the ensuing celebration with Gomez running around the field with his head heavily bandaged.

Even Mexican president Felipe Calderon was full of praise for the 16-year-old midfielder, who will return to Pachuca as a national hero. Gomez was terrific throughout the competition, displaying impressive vision and rugged determination. He also scored Mexico's opening goal in the 3-2 victory over Germany and played a part in Jorge Espericueta's equalizer late in the second half.

Mitchell Weiser, Germany

Germany was absolutely loaded with attacking talent, including striker Samed Yesil, who finished as the tournament's second-leading scorer with six goals, but no player caused more trouble for opposing defenses than right back Mitchell Weiser. His rampaging runs down wing resulted in a number of scoring opportunities in each game, and Weiser found the back of the net three times.

The 17-year-old scored against Burkina Faso and Panama in the group stage, and the United States in the second round, but his most impressive display came in the 3-2 victory over England in the quarterfinals. Weiser provided pinpoint assists for two of Germany's goals, both scored by Yesil, and his tireless energy proved crucial late in the game with England staging a comeback.

Emiliano Velazquez, Uruguay

Velazquez very nearly missed the semifinal with Brazil after picking up a knock in the victory over Uzbekistan in the previous round, but the captain recovered in time to marshal the back-line, as Uruguay stunned its South American rivals with a 3-0 win. The lopsided scoreline belies the fact that Brazil enjoyed greater possession and created a number of chances throughout the match.

Uruguay never cracked, however, as Fabian Coito's side rode a stingy defense all tournament long to reach the final. Velazquez was a big reason why and not just for his impressive leadership skills. The 17-year-old displayed tremendous composure on the ball and recovery speed to deal with talented wingers on his side of the field, as the Celeste allowed five goals in seven games.

Adryan, Brazil

Lucas Piazon arrived in Mexico with the bigger reputation given his recent transfer to Chelsea, but if not for the female fans going crazy each time he touched the ball, Piazon would've hardly been noticed at all. Just like in the South American Championships earlier this year, Adryan was Brazil's outstanding player and his suspension for the semifinal against Uruguay proved devastating.

The Flamengo playmaker was forced to drop back deep to pick up the ball because Brazil once again lacked a central midfielder capable of providing the proper link-up from defense to attack. Adryan still managed five goals, including a sensational strike against Japan in the quarterfinals, and he combined very well with Ademilson, who also outshone Piazon with five goals of his own.

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62 Responses to A look back at the Under-17 World Cup

  1. AL says:

    Painful but got to give credit where credit is due.
    I think Mexico eliminating Germany was more of a feat than beating Uruguay.
    Congratulations to them.

  2. Adam says:

    This just makes me even more pessimistic about the future of US soccer. Mexico has two crops of youth world cup winners and we don’t qualify for one (I think U-21)tournament and get destroyed in this one. Reyna better get the youth development working or it’s going to be a long decade or two of results like the Gold Cup final.

  3. JV says:

    +1 Adam – I’ll always passionately support the USMNT in every way possible and believe until the whistle blows….but I’m fearful for what the next several years in CONCACAF will be like for the US. Mexico is legit and they have several youngsters coming up. The level of excitement for our youth is significantly less.

  4. sushant says:

    Anyone watch all the US U17 games? I only watched one of them (the game against the Czech’s). The team had talent and skills, but seemed to lack urgency or a cutting edge (as they say).

    Who impressed you? Thanks!

  5. shane says:

    Congrats to Mexico, but folks are seriously overreacting to what all this means for the future of US soccer. Mexico’s success will only make the US, and CONCACAF, stronger. Hopefully someday both Mexico and the US will be advancing deep into the latter stages of the World Cup.

  6. AJ says:


  7. jlm says:

    How good is Guido? Looks like a stud to me.

  8. Pat says:

    How many American born players were on the Mexican team?

  9. frank from sf says:

    exactly, plus keep in mind that @ that age group playing @ home means ALOT. not to many 15-16 yrl olds can be consistent thru out a tournament in a hostile enviroment. if the tables are turned and mexico is playing in a stadium w/ 98 thousand screaming fans against them, i’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have reached the final. they have good talent,BUT playing @ home and being so young(not used to the pressure just yet) does go a long way.

  10. Adam (a different one) says:

    Little off topic… but I think it’s about time for another SBI Live Chat

  11. shane says:

    +1 but only if he answers my questions. Otherwise it’s a waste of my time

  12. Leo says:

    It stings.


  13. AJ says:

    Undefeated. First home team to win the tournament. Congratulations Mexico!

  14. Jason says:

    First nation to host a u17 world cup at home and winning it undefeated. Nice job Mexico. Mexico beat 3 European nations Netherlands,France,Germany,1 african nation Congo, 1 Asian nation north Korea, and 1 concacaf nation panama. 1 south America nation conmebol uruguay.

  15. Martha says:

    First home nation to have extreme altitude and smog.

    Altitude+smog+centribohl= wc win

    Uruguays future isn’t as bright as Mex based on what? Mex winning in la Cuna Aztecs where everyone knows they have an unfair advantage and mex burning Bornstein ? Check the score of th Gold Cup before and after cherundolo got hurt.

    Was Mexico missing anyone? Us were missing Onyewu (out of form from injury) Holden, Chandler Altidore and Davies so let’s put that in perspective. I give Mex credit because their main players never get hurt while ours play in hack a man leagues like MLS and England. England nats have injury problems too incidentally.

    The ONLY special player those two champions produced is Chicchicicicicipito

    Again, let’s not get too impresses Nigeria Saudi Arabia n Switzerland also won this title and how many world cups have they won? Come close? 0 that’s how many

  16. Eurosnob says:

    Adam, not that I disagree that our youth development system needs an overhaul, the focus should not be on U17 WC results, but rather on what players on each team showed well. Spain, for example, did not qualify for U17 cup in Mexico, but it does not mean that their youth development program is in crisis. You have to focus on individual prospects, not team results – Saudi Arabia won the U17 WC, but did this success really propel their senior team to an elite status? While the losses are disappointing, the US U17 team had several players that looked good – Guido, Koroma, Pelosi, the goalkeeper, etc. The U20 team that has not qualified for the WC, also has several promissing prospects in Gyau, Lletget, Gatt, etc. It’s not all doom and gloom.

  17. Eurosnob says:

    Frank, you may have a point about the role of the homefield advantage. Uruguay U17 team beat Mexico U17 6-2 less than two months ago. But it is not the fault of Mexican 16 year olds that their country hosted the tournament. They won it fair and square. They showed a lot of determination and beat superior and more talented teams such as Germany and Uruguay.

  18. BenH says:

    I really liked Guido on the ball. He can actually play wit the ball at his feet. Our keeper was also good. Those two come to mind.

  19. Daniel says:

    Wow Martha. Why do do have the need to do this?

  20. WC_heart says:


  21. YO says:

    Pollo y nenas para todos!

  22. frank from sf says:

    never said they didn’t deserve it. but” they showed a lot of determination and beat superior and more talented teams” again needs to be tapered down a bit. IN germany or IN uruguay and they don’t reach the finals….just my observation from other u-17 cups. being @ home DOES make a difference. not taking anything away from the mexican team, just ppl. around these boards make it sound all doom&gloom, when reality they WERE suppose to reach atleast the finals….thx. for answering tho.

  23. Dale says:

    Martha you make us Americans look like bitter people, put a smile on that face its just football!…Mexico won in peru in 2005, beside the final was already set to be played in the Azteca before the tourney started and Mexico played every game in different venues, the only game to be played in the Azteca was the final(and the consolation game). Don’t bring up the Gold Cup, the famous “we lost because Dolo was subbed-out” crap because mexico was missing Rafa and Salcido. Take a breather you obviously haven’t gotten over our Gold Cup defeat, its ok but don’t go on every thread spreading your pointless negativity….and if it so easy to win a u-17 world cup how cow we haven’t won one?

  24. Tractor says:

    “Just not as bright as Mexico’s, however, which continues to reap the benefits from a greater emphasis on its youth program.”

    I’d like to know more about what specifically they’ve done to increase that emphasis. Probably too long for a reply in the Comments section, so perhaps a short feature, SBI?

  25. Chivas life says:

    Well said my friend

  26. DrewROC says:

    …in other news the USA U19 team came in 5th at the FIBA world championship. Doubt anyone’s about to jump off that ship, but here all the US soccer fans are about to commit harakiri.

  27. ChiO says:

    Mexico is the first team that has won the u-17 world cup as hosts, so I dont think that being the host was one of the reasons for their triumph, being in home and feeling the obligation to win was a huge preassure for the young mexican team, and they were able to handle it!

  28. Eurosnob says:

    I agree with these two. I also thought that Koroma played really well coming off the bench.

  29. ChiO says:

    Hahahahaha! know you are coming up with the God Cup,! Common your Comment is so out of place! Mexico was more constant and way better than the USA, and I dont think that onyewu would have made a difference….put your feet on the ground! CONGRATS TO MEXICO, WELL DISERVED! 2X world champions! =D

  30. ChiO says:

    Dale is smart………I like Dale 😉

  31. JV says:

    Eruosnob, you make some very valid points….my concern for the next several years for the USMNT doesn’t stem from the U-17 WC…it stems from the U-17 WC and the U-20 WC and the tenuous showing at the Gold Cup and the thrashing we took from Mexico in the Gold Cup Final and the weak showings we’ve had since last summer’s World Cup. I sincerely hope I’m wrong…but I’m worried.

  32. AJ says:

    Wow, interesting theory except for the fact that no other host has ever won the competition.

  33. Brett says:

    Another crop of young Mexicans ready for Arsenal, Barcelona, Manchester United… Meanwhile the best American prospects are getting looks from Denmark and maybe even a lower league or two!

    It’s a good thing we still have that victory in the WC 2002 over them. They can win all the youth trophies and regional tourneys they want, we knocked them out of the World Cup last time we met there.

  34. Brett says:

    I watched all of our games from this tourney and the only thing I came away excited about was getting a look at our possible midfield creator of the future, Alejandro Guido. That is, if Mexico doesn’t snap him up. I’m anxiously awaiting seeing him team up with Luis Gil in the midfield down the road.

  35. Carlos says:

    I have read in a few places that the U17 isn’t a measure of success since Saudi Arabia once won it… in 1989. I disagree. Since the late 90’s and early 2000’s, soccer federations and clubs are pouring more money into their youth structures and giving these tournaments much more importance. The U17 and U20 of today is not that of the 80’s. The fact that Spain’s team didn’t go to this year’s tournament is not a knock at them, but a clear indication that countries like Germany, France and Holland are a match (and have always been) with them in investment in player development. Since 2003 the top finishers have been Spain, Brazil, Germany, Argentina and Holland (reflective at the U20 and adult WCs), as well as those nations who have not yet cracked the elite but who usually perform well at the WC. Teams will be nurturing their young talent more and more and these are the competitions where youth will demonstrate what they can do. Donovan was a Golden Boot winner when he was a U17 participant, and now he’s the top scorer in US history. Granted, not all U17 or U20 participants will be stand outs in their career, but many will, and these tournaments help develop their professionalism and ability to cope on the big stage. So, I agree with you in focusing on the individuals as it is only realistic that a whole team won’t have 20 super stars, but disagree on the importance that these tournaments have for a country’s development and that they are becoming more competitive as of late, reflecting investment in infrastructure, scouting and player development.

  36. Carlos says:

    That Mexico is the only team to have won the U-17 WC at home speaks more to their ability to handle pressure than if they had won it IN Germany or IN Uruguay. That they lost 6-2 doesn’t say much. The friendlies they play help the coaches field different players and use different formations. They also tied Uruguay in the same week 0-0 and the previous week beat Argentina 4-0. What does that say? Not much, other than the coaches were testing their squads. If history shows anything at that age level its that a home field advantage can be detrimental. The 2005 Mexico squad flew well below the radar and wasn’t taken seriously until they made it to the final by beating Holland 4-0. Therefore, the pressure wasn’t on them and even in the final the pressure was on Brazil as the favorites. If only 2 other home teams have reached the final in the U-17, then it is impossible to argue that they WERE supposed to at least make it to the final.

  37. Carlos says:

    What? Are you honestly accusing 16 and 17 year olds of using growth hormones? Wow… I am speechless. You have just achieved the heights of being a sore loser.
    And then adding from left-field the Gold Cup? And that Mexico was without key players? Mexico was without its 1st string goalie and one first string defender. AND they lost Salcido and Marquez during the play of game. Check the shots on goal BEFORE Cherundolo got hurt. Mexico beat the the US without 5 starters, counting Osorio who was hurt prior to the Gold Cup starting. Out 5 starters and they were able to beat the US 4-2. With them it would’ve probably been 10. And if the U17 is such a cake walk, why has the US never made it to a final? You’ve got the athleticism, right? The millions playing in youth leagues. Etc, etc.

  38. Martha says:

    Name one. Are they going to arsenal to get splinters on their arse like Vela? How bout ditto for Gio at Barca then tottnham? or the other dos Santos who is only on Barca cause his dad strong-armed them into a both or nothing deal n rides the pine for their b team.

  39. ARTES says:


  40. Jake the Snake says:

    I doubt Martha is American probably central american or peruvian.

    Many people bring up the “we lost because Dolo was subbed-out” because people like Ives bring it up in their arguments.

  41. Jake the Snake says:

    HAHA strong-armed a 12 year old boy to a 9 year contract?

  42. Ricky B. Free says:

    Wow martha you take the cake lol. Sore loser and trolling.

    Its ok to admit that Mexico is Concacaf giant again. But the US will not give up and will give them a run for their money.

    Stop being so central american and leave your hatred toward Mexico. Its just a sports rivalry.

  43. martha says:

    That’s dumb because of my iPhone autocorrect and diminutive touch screen I’m Peruvian.


    I’m glad your bowing down to Mexico due to a kids tournament. Maybe u can become a citizen it doesn’t take much.

    Last year they we’re trying to naturalize Brazilians left and right and now you guys are making them out to have the greatest youth system ever.

    What kind of dumb argument says that winning U17 team championship translates to senior team success because Holland and Germany are almost as good as Spain. Spain is champs no one is really close fernado Torres and Fabregas would start for everyother team in the world but were an afterhought for Spain. Winning childrens tournaments means nothing. Look at past winners period.

    Its not Mexicos fault the final was in Cuna Azteca, but regardless IT WAS if it were played anywhere else they wouldn’t have won. And They won in Peru? Um check the extreme altitude there!!!! Didn’t FIFA bam games at that altitude shortly after but bowed down to mex by allowing the altitude to be just high enough for Cuna Azteca?

    Yea they won the U 17 how many years ago? And you know what? They still got thrashed by Argentina who was coached by cocadona (not exactly Beckenbauer) anf who hasn’t done anything special in the youth level and then themselves got thrashed by Germany.

  44. H-town says:

    $$$$$. That’s what they have done. Better coaches, facilities, and training at a younger age.

  45. Martha says:

    Central American? Yea more like I’m acting like the Mexicans when the shoe is on the other foot. Barca being strong armed by the paternal dos Santos is true. I can’t believe how soft u guys are u must be Mexican. Yes it’s trolling to point out that U 17 means nothing historically and backing it up with facts while you guys want to bow down to almighty Mexico bearer of the greatest youth system ever and thou historically it hasn’t counted for anything it’s different now because of nothing based on facts.

  46. Chivas life says:

    You keep bringinup estadio azteca but how do you explain beating the best team in the touney (Germany).There has to be a reason you hate these kids so much and I’m thinking that maybe a Mexican gentlmen broke your heart.

  47. Daniel says:

    Blah Blah Blah Blah… I hate Mexico. I think every one knows that.

    Just let Mexico enjoy this victory. Even though my Sunday league isn’t worth a penny it doesn’t mean I enjoy winning in it.

  48. roger says:

    I’ve been a fan of Dale’s for awhile.

    soccerbydale.net???? hahaha 😉

  49. roger says:

    I’ve been a fan of Dale’s for awhile.

    soccerbydale.net???? hahaha 😉

  50. Steve says:

    Doesn’t matter where you were born. if a white american family moves to mexico and has a child there. is he really mexican? think about that

  51. Steve says:

    good god. Im embarrassed for you. and for all us USNT supporters.

  52. abel says:

    @martha. name one???? gomez was face to face to barcelona scouts, before the tournament!! casillas is wanted by real madrid, arsenal, man utd; before the tournament!! fierro is wanted by arsenal, tottenham. if you dont believe look it up!!! Other youngsters: jona dos santos is still considered for the barca 1st team next season, if not then ac milan and inter milan are after him!! look it up. several mexicans are at the masia(barca youth system), including ryuken nishizawa and alvaro baque. diego martinez(scouted by zinedine zidane) just signed with REAL MADRID reserves YESTERDAY!!If youre trashing gio, last i remember, he was moppin the floor with howard!! As for vela, hes still at arsenal and is considered for next season.

    african countries have won this u17 category but look at the age scandals(some players were in their mid 20s)

    Yes, the u17 championship might not mean a lot, but its a good parameter for the youth systems in mexico in comparison with the rest of world (especially with US youth system, that got trashed by germany u17).

  53. abel says:

    as for being being by argentina??? did you even watch the game??? mexico were by far the better team. mexico was cheated on the first goal (fifa apologized), the second goal was a ridiculous mistake by mexican defender, and the 3rd was from long distance. what im tryin to say is that argentina never had a CLEAR chance.

  54. abel says:

    being beat*

  55. abel says:

    forgot to mention edgardo ‘el gato’ obregon [the next messi, kun aguero, maradona(stated by the argentines)]. born in usa, but in love w/ mexican nat team and chivas (all mexican club).

  56. Eurosnob says:

    Carlos, I don’t disagree that the quality of the tournament may have improved since 1980s, but let’s be realistic. The last four U17 winners are Mexico, Switzerland, Nigeria, and, again, Mexico – hardly soccer superpowers. None of these countries ever advanced past the quarterfinals in the real World Cup. On the other hand, countries like Germany, Spain, Italy, Argentina never won the U17 world cup, but it did not prevent them from winning the real World Cup. It’s good when the U17 team or even a player does well in the tournament (Mexico, Nigeria and Switzerland should be proud of their respective achievements), but it does not necessarily mean that this success would necessarily translate to the senior team level. I don’t disagree that these tournaments are helpful to the player development but they are less important than being developed at the right club and getting consistent playing time at senior level. For every Donovan or Febergas that won the U17 golden ball and had successful careers, there are other golden ball winners who had rather forgettable careers (Sergio Santamaria, Frolrent Singala-Pongolle, etc.). And success at the U17 WC is not directly correlated to investments in infrastructure, scouting and player development is much more important than a particular result at the U17 world cup. I doubt that the U17 Cup winners like Nigeria, Ghana, Mexico or even Switzerland outspent countries like Germany or Spain.

  57. Dennis says:

    Guys, get real. If anyone could really spot which 16 year-olds would have all the talent, passion, drive, luck, brains required to become outstanding professional players and not merely more mature than his cohorts, ManU, Barcelona, Chelsea, etc. would beating a path to his or her door.

    All anyone can do is look at how players perform today against their peers and assume that tomorrow will bring more of the same. So few 16 year-olds are capable of matching 26 year-olds athleticaly, intellectually, or even in skill that it always takes a leap of faith to precict success later on.

    That said, I would rather have a large pool of potential future talent, which the U-17 tourney might be a measure of, than a meager one.

    A couple dozen players at Bradenton will never be the answer. Every MLS team should have at least 30 or so youth players on their rosters in addition to reserve teams so that they have maybe 100 players training every day with the various levels of the team. Until that happens, so that the kids who mature more slowly have a decent chance of being recognized before they decide on some other future, the US will never develop players well enough to do better than we are doing now.

    With more players at a higher level, it would have an effect on youth players at all levels since there would be a realistic chance that they could step up to the next level and the MLS teams would actually strive to identify players at the local level.

  58. Chivas life says:

    Abel you are my hero right now but martha doesn’t want real facts, just mind bogling hate jiber jaber.vela is going to be side by side to Nasri on the Arsenal Asia tour and racing is trying to pick up the money for gio, barrera and juarez are a signature away from Zaragoza and chicharito was part of the 2005 u17 squad until he got pulled out because of an injury.does this mean your going to win the big one? But it does mean your a top contender in your confederation for a good while.

  59. Dave says:

    As a rational mexico fan, I think there are a lot of reasons for optimism, based on the fact that some of our better players today were part of the 2005 generation that won the U-17. That doesn’t guarantee anything, but it’s the reason we’re optimistic.

    USA fans need to deal with it and quit being such sore losers.

  60. Dude says:

    Yeah yeah If USA would of won it nobody will complain and they would be celebrating.

  61. Dominghosa says:

    For my money, Ademilson was the best player in the tournament. As a young forward, he has the scoring touch, balls skills, first touch, vision and passing ability. Great player.