Monday 11 February 2019, 17:22

History-making Ecuador head South American charge to Poland 

  • Four South American nations secure ticket to Poland 2019

  • Ecuador win maiden U-20 continental championship

  • Five-time world champions Brazil edged out

Ecuador made history by winning the U-20 South American Championship for the very first time and will head up the region’s four representatives at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019.

Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia are the other South American nations who will be joining them, while Brazil, five-time world champions in the age group, miss out for the second time in a row.

After performing well in the first phase, Venezuela lost momentum in the final six-team round robin and finished bottom, missing out on the chance to go one better than the runners-up slot they achieved at Korea Republic 2017. assesses the performances of the four qualifiers from the Chile-based tournament which produced the lowest ever goals-per-game average (1.71) in the history of the competition.

Ecuador come out on top

  • The stat: qualified for their fourth U-20 World Cup and their second in a row

Coached by the Argentinian Jorge Celico, Ecuador were the most consistent side in Chile. Group winners in the first phase, they collected 19 points out of a possible 27 overall (more than any other side) and also top scored with 14 goals, an average of 1.55 per match.

Though they lost twice to Uruguay, who scored four of the six goals the Ecuadorians conceded, Celico’s men won their three matches against the other two sides who will be joining them in Poland.

Goalkeeper Moises Ramirez excelled, as did Gonzalo Plata and Leonardo Campana, the tournament’s leading scorer with six goals.

Argentina hit form in time

  • The stat: the six-time world champions in the age group will be making their 16th U-20 world finals appearance

Fernando Batista’s Albiceleste improved as the tournament went on. After picking up a solitary point in their opening two games, the Argentinians won the next two to claim second place in their group.

It was a similar story in the final round, which they began by losing for a second time to Ecuador. Batista’s side rallied with three straight wins to become the first South American side to qualify for Poland 2019, though defeat by Brazil in their final match meant they missed out on the continental title.

Goalkeeper Manuel Roffo and midfielders Anibal Moreno and Gonzalo Marioni were Argentina’s standout performers.

Bittersweet third for Uruguay

  • The stat: will contest their 15th U-20 world finals and their seventh in a row, the longest run by a South American side

Something of an authority in South American youth football, Fabian Coito got the best out of his Celeste side in the key games as they made sure of yet another U-20 World Cup slot. They were disappointed to finish third, however.

Though the Uruguayans beat the eventual champions twice, they could only place third in their first-round group and were made to work hard for their ticket to Poland, secured with a hard-fought 0-0 draw with Colombia in their final match.

Full-back Maximiliano Araujo was on form for the men in sky blue, as was midfielder Nicolas Acevedo and attacking midfielder Nicolas Schiappacasse, the scorer of four of the ten goals they totalled in Chile.

Colombia show their defensive mettle

  • The stat: after missing out in 2017, the Colombians will make their tenth U-20 world finals appearance

Arturo Reyes’ side qualified ahead of Brazil on goal difference, after both teams finished on five points. Defence was Colombia’s strong suit, as they conceded just three goals in their nine matches.

That strength at the back allowed the Colombians to make the most of the four goals they scored, which brought them three wins, all achieved without letting a goal in.

One of the most important ones was the own goal that gave them a last-gasp victory over Chile, which sent the hosts out and Los Cafeteros (The Coffee growers) through to the final six-team round.

Colombia’s star men were goalkeeper Kevin Mier, central defender Andres Reyes and midfielder Ivan Angulo.