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Gus Keri

A life-long Liverpool fan who resides in New York City and also supports the New York Red Bulls.


The FIFA U-20 World Cup Quarterfinals: The Latin Dance

Written by on August 13, 2011 | 14 Comments »
Posted in World Cups

The 18th FIFA U-20 World Cup has reached its quarterfinal stage and it couldn’t get any better for the Latin lovers, in soccer that is.

All the quarter-finalists are from Latin America or Latin Europe except the African nation of Nigeria, which is playing a style that is even more enjoyable to watch. It doesn’t only play a Latin style but also adds the African flare to it.

Four quarter-finalists have won the U-20 WC title before (Argentina 6, Brazil 3, Portugal 2 and Spain 1) for a total 13 cups out of 17. The other winners (Germany, Ghana, Russia and Serbia) didn’t even qualify for this cup.

Argentina vs. Portugal

Saturday 6 pm EST

This game is a meeting between the two stingiest defenses remaining in the cup. Portugal is the only team that has not conceded yet while Argentina conceded one goal only.

Attacking-wise, they aren’t that good. Portugal scored only 3 goals in 4 games and one of them through a PK, while Argentina scored only 6 and ranked 6th in the last 8 ahead of only Mexico (4 goals) and Portugal.

As a matter of fact, the Argentinean display was the most disappointing one. With all the hoopla and the reputation of Iturbe and Lamela, they didn’t deliver what was supposed to be their coming out party.

Their performance against Egypt in particular left a lot to be desired. Egypt was by far the better team and if it wasn’t for the diving and poor refereeing, we might have not seen Argentina in this stage.

Iturbe, I thought, showed some flashes of brilliance during his time on the field but, can he be consistent and help his team reach their record 7th title?  They have to go through a very strong defensive Portuguese team that frustrated the likes of Uruguay and Cameroon.

Argentina is making its 10th QF trip winning 8 previously, while Portugal is in its 5th QF winning 3 times in this stage.

My prediction: Argentina

Colombia vs. Mexico

Saturday 9 pm EST

Colombia has history against them. Only twice before, a host won the U-20 WC (Portugal 1991 and Argentina 2001). But what they lack in history, they make up for in geography and sociology.

Their familiarity with the surroundings and the enthusiastic crowds might push them all the way to the title. And above all, they are one of the most entertaining sides of the cup.

They will be playing a CONCACAF opponent for the second time in a row and in Mexico they will have their hands full. Mexico has never been a push over and their recent success at other age groups might indicate that they will give the Colombian a run for their money.

Colombia was one of two teams to win every game (Nigeria is the other one) while Mexico had one win only. Also, Colombia has the better offense (10 vs. 4 goals) but on the other hand, they have equal defense (conceded 2 goals each). Mexico needed PK shoot-out to beat Cameroon in the round of 16.

Colombia has two players in the top three goal scorers: Muriel with 4 and Rodriquez with 3. Mexico has no player that scored more than one goal. Rodriquez (3 goals and 3 assists) is one of the candidates for the MVP so far.

This is the 4th trip for Colombia to the QF and the 7th trip for Mexico with both winning only once in this stage.

My prediction: Colombia

Nigeria vs. France

Sunday 4 pm EST

Nigeria is featuring one of the most exciting stars of this cup in Ahmed Musa whose runs on the left side unsettled even the stingiest defense; the English. Musa tops the assists table with 3 (tied with Rodriguez) to go with his 3 goals. Kayode and Egbedi also have 3 goals each to make Nigeria the most potent team with 13 goals.

Their opponent is France which started the cup very slow, losing to Colombia 1-4 but since then they recorded 3 wins in a row. France came as the champion of Europe after they went unbeaten in the European U-19 tournament (4 wins and 1 draw) and beat Spain 2-1 in the final, but they never looked comfortable here and disappointed a lot of observers.

Nigeria, in my opinion, is the most impressive side at this cup and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them making it all the way to keep the trophy in Africa after Ghana won it in 2009.

Nigeria is making its 6th appearances in the QF while this is France’s third one. France never passed this stage while Nigeria won 3 times and reached the final game twice.

My prediction: Nigeria

Brazil vs. Spain

Sunday 7 pm EST

Save the best for last. This will be the tie of the round. History-wise, it is the meeting between the team in form against the most prestigious one.

There is no doubt the huge historical success Brazil had on the international level at all ages but the glory in the current days belongs to the Spanish teams. Spain, it seems, could do no wrong these days, winning almost every competition they participate in.

In this U-20 cups, they have similar records. They both won 3 games and drew one and scored 12 goals in the process. The only exception is that Brazil conceded one goal to Spain’s two.

Spain has the top scorer so far in Vazquez (4 goals) but the real star power of this game are Coutinho for Brazil and Canales for Spain. Canales didn’t see a lot of playing time because of injury but Coutinho is the strongest candidate for the MVP if Brazil goes any further in the cup.

Playing-wise, though, Spain didn’t convince in some of the group games and especially against South Korea, while Brazil is playing some of the most exciting soccer in this cup.

Brazil’s only hiccup was against Egypt and this is no shame because Egypt was the best team not to make it to the QF and if it wasn’t for the antics from the Argentinean players, we might have seen a repeat game between them in the finale.

This is Brazil’s 14th appearances in the QF (the most by any team) winning on 8 occasions while it’s Spain’s 10th appearances winning only 4 times.

My prediction: Brazil

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14 responses to “The FIFA U-20 World Cup Quarterfinals: The Latin Dance”

  1. Gbenga says:

    Exellent analysis Gus… Watching the Argentina/Portugal at the moment and waiting to see who will dive first…

    Some very good games… I see Spain edging Brazil but it’s going to be a tough one. It might be Brazil’s toughest test yet.

  2. Gus Keri says:


    I actually hesitated before I made my predictions because I thought any team could make it to the semifinals but eventually I went with the teams from the home continent mostly.

    I can see now that I might be wrong with most if not all of them.

    Portugal eliminated Argentina on PK and Mexico is leading the home team against the run of play 1-0 at the half.

  3. Gus Keri says:

    Portugal – Argentina: 0-0 (Portugal win PKs 5-4)

    It was a very hard (and boring) game dominated by the two defenses.

    The only drama was in the PKs where Argentina took 3-1 lead before Portugal came back to tie 3-3 and went to the 2nd sudden death PK to decide it in their favor.

    Argentina didn’t deserve to go through and the happiest people in the stadium were the Colombian fans who were against the Argentineans who antagonized many people with their antics.

    Luque was the major culprit in the Egypt game where he dove many times and got a yellow card before the referee gave him a PK for one of his dives that was converted for the first Argetninean goal. The same player dove again and got a yellow and would have missed the semifinals if Argentina made it.

    Portugal, on the other hand, was less culprit on the antics front, but they were a very organized defense and will make it hard for the next opponent which will come out of the Nigeria/France game.

    For Portugal, it’s now 5 games without conceding a goal.

  4. Gus Keri says:

    Mexico – Colombia: 3-1

    It’s the biggest upset of this tournament.

    Colombia dominated the first half and wasted so many opportunities but the Mexican team scored against the run of play from a PK, through Torres, to finish the first hald 1-0.

    In the second half, though, Mexico grew in confidence and played much better and threatened the Colombia goal and scored two more goals from Rivera after Colombia tied it from Zapata.

    The host team is out and Mexico made it twice in a row for a CONCACAF team in the semifinals. Costa Rica made the semi in 2009.

  5. Thought Colombia’s goalkeeper looked poor on goals 2 and 3.

  6. Gus Keri says:

    How about the Mexican goalkeeper who let the ball go through his legs for the Colombia goal?
    Let’s say, it wasn’t a good day for the keepers.

  7. Soccerlogical says:

    Should Nigeria retain their free flowing style and play with enjoyment I can see them lifting the trophy as every other team has gone into a shell thus far in the QFs.

  8. Gus Keri says:

    While watching the Porugal’s win against Argentina through PKs, I couldn’t help but think how strange is the world of PKs.

    I remember some discussion I had on this website about the logic of “making sense of non-sense”.

    And I am not trying to open a new discussion here. It was just an observation.

    Portugal missed the 2nd and 3rd PK. now the score is 3-1 for Argentina.

    Now, it is almost impossible for Argentina to lose. Right?

    Here is what the stats that was presented by Bobby said about the success rate of each PK, based on Jordet et al from the Journal of Sports Sciences:

    •First kick 86.6%
    •Second kick 81.7%
    •Third kick 79.3%
    •Fourth kick 72.5%
    •Fifth kick 80%
    •‘Sudden death’ kicks 64.3%

    Back to our game:

    There are 4 PKs left. Argentina need one of them to go their way to win the PKs. Either one of its two players scores or one of Portugal players misses.

    Portugal 4th player chance to miss is 27.5%
    Argentina 4th player chance to score is 72,5%
    Portugal 5th player chance to miss is 20%
    Argentina 5th player chance to score is 80%

    Remembering that only one of these things needed to happen for Argetnina to win the PKs and the game:

    The calculated chance for Argetnina to win was a staggering 97%

    Do you beleive it? 97%?

    And now, every one knows what happened.

  9. soccerlogical says:

    I never understood the logic behind using one of your best players as a super-sub. Both Iturbe of Argentina and Lacazette of France started on the bench. We all know where it got the Argies and now France’s coach deserves the same fate for not starting his best striker Lacazette.

  10. Gus Keri says:


    Are you happy now?

  11. Gus Keri says:

    U-20 WC update:

    France – Nigeria: 3-2 (AET) (1-1 in regulation)

    Another favorite are heading home.

    It was a very well played game with both team going for the win. France finally are showing what made them the champions of Europe.
    They took the lead on a 50th minute goal but Nigeria fought back until they tied the game in the final kick of the injury time.

    But in the first period of extra time France scored two goals and did their best to hold off Nigeria from another come back.

    Lacazette scored two goals after comiong off the bench and now joins the leaders on top of the goal scoring table with 4 goals (with Vasquez of Spain and Muriel of Colombia)

  12. Soccerlogical says:

    Gus – I freaked out when he brought in Lazacatte around the 15 the min while I was making that post…. CRAZY! He saw Nigeria were there to actually have fun and play and he needed to match them in attack. Smart move which paid off, now let’s see if he stays with Lazacatte against the Bra/Spa winner.

  13. Gus Keri says:

    U-20 WC update:

    Brazil – Spain: 2-2 (Brazil win on PKs 4-2)

    Another great game to follow France/Nigeria one.

    It was worthy of the reputation of the two teams as embassadors of the beautiful game.

    But unfortunately, one of them has to go home and it was Spain.

    The semifinal line-up:

    Brazil vs Mexico
    France vs Portugal

    We might see the champions of Europe, France, against the champions of South America, Brazil, in the final and what a final it would be.
    But maybe I shouldn’t predict any more. I got 3 out of 4 predicitons wrong.

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