By DAVID MOSSE
It remains to be seen whether the current Mexico Under-17 side will supply the senior team with as much talent as the 2005 edition, which captured the U-17 World Cup in Peru behind the likes of Giovani dos Santos and Carlos Vela. Either way, the hosts are into the semifinals of the 2011 tournament following an impressive 2-1 victory over France on Monday, and striker Carlos Fierro certainly looks to have a bright future.
Fierro was on target early in the second half with his fourth goal of the tournament, breaking the deadlock after Kevin Escamilla and France's Jordan Ikoko had already found the back of the net. Marco Bueno was behind every Mexican move and seems to be a major talent as well.
It was a solid tournament for the French team, which departed Mexico with two potential future stars in Abdallah Yaisien and Yassine Benzia, but only Germany is left to carry the flag for Europe after knocking off England on Monday. The Germans raced out to their customary big lead with Samed Yesil scoring twice and Kaan Ayhan adding another, but England surprisingly came storming back.
Samuel Magri converted a penalty midway through the second half and Hallam Hope found the back of the net seven minutes from time, setting up a frantic finish, as Germany held on for a 3-2 win. Brazil survived a similar scare on Sunday against Japan. Emerson Avila's side looked to be in total control with a 3-0 lead and 15 minutes remaining before Japan made things interesting.
Goals from Shoya Nakajima and Fumiya Hayakawa nearly spoiled Brazil's best performance so far, which included a sensational strike from Adryan. The Selecao overcame the absences of Lucas Piazon and Nathan, both suspended due to yellow-card accumulation, as Leo broke the deadlock with a precise header from a corner and striker Ademilson scored his fifth goal in as many games.
Next up for Brazil is a familiar foe in Uruguay, which ended Uzbekistan's fairytale run with a 2-0 victory Sunday. Santiago Charamoni and Rodrigo Aguirre provided the scoring, and the defense was solid as usual for Fabian Coito's side. It should be an entertaining encounter between the two South American rivals, while Mexico battles Germany in an absolutely mouth-watering clash.
Here is a closer look at the two semifinal matchups:
Uruguay vs. Brazil, Thursday, 4 p.m., ESPNU/ESPN3.com/Galavision
Brazil captured the South American Under-17 Championship back in April, but one of the lowest points of its campaign was a scoreless draw with Uruguay in the final round in which the Selecao were thoroughly outplayed. Emerson Avila knows full well the threat posed by a Uruguayan side with an excellent goalkeeper in Jonathan Cubero and attacking threats like Santiago Charamoni.
Manager Fabian Coito could be without captain Emiliano Velazquez who limped off against Uzbekistan, while Juan Cruz Mascia remains sidelined due to injury. Lucas Piazon and Nathan return for Brazil, but Adryan misses out through suspension, which represents a brutal loss for Avila, who needs Piazon to display the kind of form that led Chelsea to sign him earlier this year.
Germany vs. Mexico, Thursday, 7 p.m., ESPNU/ESPN3.com/Galavision
Fierro is already drawing comparisons to Manchester United star Javier Hernandez, and Fierro can boost his reputation further with a strong performance against powerful Germany, by far the most impressive team in the competition thus far. Fierro is joined by Bueno and Arturo Gonzalez in the attack, while Antonio Briseno is entrusted with anchoring the back line.
Briseno will need to be at his best to contain Yesil, who is now the tournament's second-leading scorer. Midfielder Emre Can provides most of the service, while right back Mitchell Weiser is a sensational weapon with his rampaging runs down the wing. Steffen Freund's side has already scored 18 times in five games.
Who do you see winning the semifinal matches and advancing to the U-17 World Cup final? Can you see Mexico knocking off Germany? Which players have impressed you during the tournament?
Share your thoughts below.