The much-anticipated South American Under-20 Championship kicks off on Wednesday. Followers of the South American leagues are afforded the chance to see if players they have earmarked for a glittering career live up to their billing, while new names can announce themselves as stars.
Many players will have already gained significant league and continental experience, with South American side courageous/desperate in throwing baby-faced talent into the heated atmospheres that the continent throws up.
The tournament is a hidden gem according to Tim Vickery, and with four teams qualifying for this year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup it is a tournament looked upon seriously by all competitors.
South America is a haven for football scouts from all across Europe and further afield. Cast your gaze across European football’s landscape and most clubs posses a South American playing a prominent role in their team. Barcelona and Lionel Messi, Manchester City and Sergio Agüero, Napoli and Edison Cavani AC Milan and Thiago Silva to name but a few.
And one South American nation, more than most, are making extra room for scouts as interest in their players increase. But it is not the traditional giants of Brazil and Argentina or even Uruguay who have achieved so much with such a sparse population. It is Chile. The land of Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamarano, the Andes and Atacama, Colo Colo and Universidad de Chile.
It is a breeding ground of talented – and temperamental – footballers. The success of the Chilean national team in the last few years and more recently Universidad de Chile has brought attention to the world’s longest country. And within it there are a number of talented footballers waiting to break-out and join Mauricio Isla, Mauricio Pinilla, Alexis Sánchez, Arturo Vidal, Jean Beausejour, Sebastián Pinto and more in the epicentre of football.
Universidad de Chile returned from their latest Copa Libertadores trip in much better fettle than they did from their last trip where they fell 4-1 to Deportivo Quito in Ecuador, before winning the second-leg 6-0.
However the opening period did not go to plan as Libertad, time and again, got in begin Los Azules’ defence; Osvaldo González in particular struggled to adapt to the pressure put on him and the space around him. The opening goal from Paraguayan international Victor Cáceres came from the space down La U’s right flank.
The home side’s pace and pressing led to a number of counter-attacks. But La U survived and gradually imposed themselves; Ángelo Henríquez coming closest to forcing an equaliser before half-time.
The Chileans influence grew in the second half and they equalised through Gustavo Lorenzetti’s deflected strike before the game slowed down and settled into a stop-start contest. Universidad de Chile’s substitute Emilio Hernández was sent off towards the end.
Mauro Diaz evades the challenge of Luis Mena as Union Espanola prevail in a classic (image: unionespanola.cl)
A quiet week in Chile? No not really. So what is in store for Week 11. Unión Española and Colo Colo took part in arguably the game of the year so far and one of the best games anywhere The Red One has witnessed this season. High-tempo football? Check. Goals? Check. Unreliable defences? Check.
Elsewhere Cobreloa suffered a Nelson Acosta hangover in Santiago while Santiago Wanderers of Valparaíso were brought back down to Earth with a bump in Santiago, blue is colour in the top places of Apertura and there was varying degrees of success for new (and relatively new) managers.
Off the field there is a worrying situation developing at Colo Colo between certain players and fans while we look ahead to the first big Santiago derby and share some transfer news surrounding two of Chile’s most promising defenders.