Bolivia plays host
to the stars of the future
(FIFA.com) 21 Oct 2005
When Argentina and Peru take to the field in the Tahuici Aguilera Stadium, Santa Cruz this Saturday for the opening match of the South American U-15 Championship Bolivia 2005, they will not only signal the start of the only continental tournament in the world for youngsters in this age category
, they will also take the first steps on the path they hope leads to glory.
Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Venezuela, in Group A, and Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay, in Group B, will be attempting to finish in the top two in their respective groups in order to progress to the semi-finals. The final will be played on Friday 4 November. Montero, situated to the north of Santa Cruz, will be the other tournament venue.
Curiously, this competition was held for the first time in September 2004 as an U-16 event and was won by Paraguay, the host country, 5-3 on penalties after the game had ended 0-0. For Bolivia 2005, however, only players born on or after 1 January 1990 are eligible. This generation of footballers will then go on to contest the 2007 South American U-17 Championship in Ecuador.
Johnny Medrano, the Bolivian coach, is confident his boys will do well. "I hope they rise to the occasion because a lot of hard work has gone into our preparations. I have a great squad and some of these players will play a key role in the renewal process our country's football is currently going through. We have to start achieving tangible results in the next few years."
Miguel Ángel, the coach of perennial tournament favourites Argentina, said at the press conference: "This South American Championship is very important to us, but not as a short-term objective. It is an excellent opportunity to test these young lads who play in the Eighth Division back home. They will gain invaluable experience that will benefit both them and us when it comes to selecting the next U-17 national side. Rather than winning this tournament, which of course we will be seeking to do, it is of much greater importance that we lay strong foundations for future international tournaments."
The competition was conceived in 2003 by the Executive Committee of the South American Football Federation (CONMEBOL) as a preparatory tournament for the U-17 South American Championship played in April of this year in Venezuela, from which Brazil and Uruguay went on to contest the FIFA U-17 World Championship Peru 2005.
In addition to the 10 CONMEBOL sides, Mexico and the United States were invited to take part in the inaugural tournament. Some of the players have since gone on to star for their respective U-17 national sides. The most striking example of this is the recent final of the FIFA U-17 World Championship Peru 2005 in which 7 Brazilians and 4 Mexicans who played in the 2004 tournament in Paraguay were in the starting line-ups.
More specifically, the Brazilian Anderson, winner of the Adidas Golden Ball for the player of the tournament at Peru 2005, and César Oswaldo Villaluz, who starred in Mexico's resounding 3-0 victory over Brazil in the final, took their first steps in international football in the 2004 tournament in Paraguay. Others who played in Paraguay and who are now regarded as outstanding talents are the Paraguayan José Olimpia Montiel, who was recently called up to the national side for the qualifiers for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany, and Argentinian Sergio Agüero, who is currently starring for Independiente de Avellaneda.