Mexico fell short in their bid to get a third U17 World Cup title when they lost the final 2-1 to Brazil. While a lot of people were talking of the coincidences with the 2005 U17 World Cup where Mexico defeated Brazil in the final for their first title, it was the ghosts from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil who arrived in the final. Just like in their round of 16 elimination in 2014, Mexico took a second half lead only to lose it in the final minutes with a goal in injury time and with controversial penalty call. The only difference was that it wasn’t one in the same like in 2014, with the controversial penalty kick goal being the one to tie and not the one that won it like in 2014. The call of “No era penal” from 2014 was heard all through Mexico again as fans revived the shouts all over the web.
Still, Mexico totally surprised and had a great overall tournament with coach Marco Antonio Ruiz improving on his goal of finishing in the finalfFour and sending a team with few chances before the tournament to the final against top competition.
The game started with Mexico having a very tough task ahead of them. Mexico could have gotten the first chance when Efrain Alvarez almost took advantage of a mistake but he decided to shoot instead of crossing to a Mexican player in the box. Besides that early chance, it was all Brazil in the early minutes.
They had a glorious chance to open the scoring when a wide open Gabriel Veron went through the middle of the area and should have scored but lobbed the ball over the bar. Then they had a another great chance when Peglow had a long range shot hit the post. Mexico was lucky not to be trailing early on the game.
Mexico would eventually get some possession back and have two good chances, off an Alvarez free kick and a corner kick that the Brazilian keeper had to punch out of the air before Bryan Gonzalez got to it.
In the final minute of the first half, Brazil had another chance when Veron made a move in the area and his shot was barely deflected to a corner kick by Jesus Gomez. Off the corner kick, Kaio had a free header but it went wide. At halftime Brazil had been the better team so far and Mexico had gotten lucky to still be tied at 0 going into the second half.
The second half started and just like in the first, Mexico had the first chance of the half when Josue Martinez found Israel Luna in the area but his shot went wide. Mexico then made their first move and subbed out Efrain Alvarez for Ali Avila, a move that might have surprised many fans but isn’t rare from coach Ruiz.
While Brazil had more possession than Mexico, the second half had been a more even affair and Mexico had better control of the ball than in the first. Then in the 65th minute, Mexico shocked the stadium. Pizzuto was given time and space to get a cross that found Bryan Gonzalez wide open in the area and he made a great header past Brazil’s keeper Donelli for the 1-0. While Brazil had been better, Mexico had the goal and the lead.
Brazil started to get desperate and even subbed out Peglow for Semifinal hero Lazaro. He didn’t waste much time before making an impact, being wide open in the area but his shot went wide.
Mexico subbed out Santiago Muñoz for Joel Gomez, as Mexico started to suffer physically from their tiring performance. Brazil came close again when Daniel Cabral had a long range shot hit the post in the play that would change the game. After it, the ref was called by the VAR (Video Assistant replay) because Gabriel Veron had supposedly been brought down by Gomez. While the play looked like he was brought down, it didn’t seem as much in normal speed. The ref called it a penalty and Brazil got thrown a lifeline as Mexico protested the call. Kaio took the penalty and although Garcia came close to stopping it, he couldn’t and the game was tied 1-1.
Mexico almost gifted Brazil the second goal when Emilio Lara failed to clear a cross and left it for Lazaro, whose shot was miraculously saved by Garcia, who brought down the Brazilian attacker but wasn’t judged to have been a penalty. Lara, who had previously looked emotionally affected by the penalty call, had a solid game but like the Mexican team, he took a mental hit from the call.
As Mexico’s defense crumbled, Lazaro had a shot that went straight to Garcia. The last minutes had been all Brazil and Mexico subbed out Israel Luna for Bruce El-Mesmari. El-Mesmari had a couple of minutes but his play in the game was forgettable as he lost a ball for a potential counter attack and then failed to close on Brazilian Couto in injury time. Couto got off a cross and found a wide open Lazaro, who got to the ball and connected with a shot that went past Garcia for the 2-1.
In the final minute of play, Mexico got a free kick and Martinez found Bryan Gonzalez but this time his header went way wide. The whistle blew and Brazil had beaten Mexico and also taken Mexico’s achievement of being the only U17 World Cup host to win the title.
While Mexico can and will protest the manner Brazil got their victory, they can still hold their heads high in what was one of the best performances ever in a U17 World Cup. Coach Ruiz went from being questioned over his style and decisions, to being lauded for his work with a team that wasn’t favored to get to the final. More importantly, several players made their mark. Captain Eugenio Pizzuto won the Bronze ball as the third best player of the tournament. Eduardo Garcia should have won the best keeper of the tournament instead of Brazil’s Donelli. Maybe the most important promises are the centerbacks, Jesus Gomez and Victor Guzman, in a position where Mexico hasn’t been producing players in recent times. Mexico did a great job and although it’s a bittersweet end, overall it was an historic run for Mexican football.