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History Of The U-20 South American Championship
With the 24th edition of the South American Youth Championship set to begin, Goal.com provides readers with a brief history of the competition, as well as which players have starred for their respective nations...
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The U-20 South American Championship, which also determines the teams who qualify for the World Cup, will return to Venezuela in 2009, the place where the tournament inaugurated back in 1954. That tournament, and the next three for that matter were won by Uruguay, the second most successful team in the history of the competition, behind South American giants Brazil.

When the tournament was staged in Paraguay in 2007, it was won by Brazil. They won their group in style, with three wins and one draw from four matches. Then in the proceeding final stage, they won five matches and drew three, out of a total of eight matches. Argentina finished in second place, and gained entry into the Olympic Games of Beijing, along with the Brazilians. Uruguay and Chile, third and fourth, respectively, qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada.

The leading scorer of the tournament was Uruguay's Edison Cavani, with 7 goals. The Palermo striker was followed by Arturo Vidal, Alexandre Pato, and Nicolas Medina.

Most Successful Teams

Brazil have been the most successful team of the competition with a record nine titles to their name. Over the last decade the Brazilians have proved their superiority, with eight title triumphs in the last thirteen editions of the competition, including when they lifted the title in Paraguay in 2007.

Uruguay follow Brazil with seven titles, but the last of these being in 1981, when incidentally they ousted the Brazilians for first place. As has also been the case with the Uruguayan senior team, they have struggled to find their identity from the past.

Argentina may be the most dominant team in the world when it comes to claiming the U-20 World Cup, but they have only won four titles during the South American qualifiers. Three of these have come in the last six editions of the tournament, clearly outlining their rise to prominence, when it has come to developing fresh talent, that have gone onto bigger things.

Meanwhile, Colombia have lifted the ultimate prize twice, and Paraguay have won it only once. Chile, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador have yet to win a title. The lack of success of their youth teams has reflected on the performances of their national teams, namely in the Copa America, which from all four teams has only ever been won by Peru twice, and by Bolivia once.

Memorable Matches

In the 2007 version of the tournament, there were a number of thrilling matches. The group stage treated us to an exciting 3-3 draw between Argentina and Uruguay at the Oddone Sarubi stadium in the Cuidad del Este.

Uruguay took an early lead through Cavani in the 6th minute, but Argentina turned around the result, and went into the break with a comfortable 3-1 lead with goals from Di Maria and Sosa. But Uruguay had the last laugh, drawing level with another goal from Cavani, and one from Laens.

In the final round, South American heavyweights Brazil and Argentina fought out a dramatic 2-2 draw. Luiz Adriano put the Brazilians ahead, but Sosa drew Argentina level. Cahais put Argentina in the lead for the first time after the break, but within three minutes Lucas equalized for Brazil, and that is how the match ended.

Finally, the most important match of the tournament was the one between River Plate rivals Argentina and Uruguay. It seemed that Uruguay would gain entry into the Olympic Games at the expense of Argentina, but a 92nd minute header from Lautaro Acosta, gave Argentina a memorable victory that sent them into the competition, and Uruguay crashing out.

Famous Faces

In 2007 several great players emerged from the tournament, including Angel Di Maria, Ever Banega, Pablo Mouche, Maximiliano Moralez, Franco di Santo, and Lautaro Acosta, from Argentina. Brazil turned out with players like Alexandre Pato and Lucas, Chile had Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and Gary Medel, while Edison Cavani, Mathias Cardaccio, and Martin Caceres played for Uruguay.

Emerging Stars

Over the years several players have used the South American U-20 World Cup qualifiers as a platform before moving to the elite leagues of European football. In 1981 Uruguayan football legend Enzo Francescoli finished as the top goal scorer of the competition. In the following years the likes of Carlos Aguilera, Romario, Juan Esnaider, Luciano Galletti, Adriano, Ewerthon, Fernando Cavenaghi, Hugo Rodallega, and as mentioned above Edison Cavani, claimed the honour.

Future prospects in the 2009 version of the competition include Eduardo Salvio (Lanus) and Franco Zuculini (Racing Club), from Argentina. Douglas Costa (Gremio), Tales (Internacional), and Marquinhos (Vitoria) are few of many Brazilians who are expected to impress.

From the other South American nations, Tabare Viudez, Jonathan Urretavizcaya (Uruguay), Ronald Huth Manzur, Fernando Duarte (Paraguay), and Sherman Cardenas (Colombia) are expected to turn on the style.
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