AIPS* / DUBAI: The two semi-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 present football cuisine with an expansive international flavour. On the one hand Argentina v Mexico with a Latin flavour and, on the other, Swedish relish against Nigerian spice: Europe v Africa. Four AIPS Young Reporters, having followed the tournament from its kickoff, chose four potentially key players who may light up the football day:

Abu Dhabi (5pm local): Argentina v Mexico     

Ivan Leszczuk v Raul Gudino (Mexico)

Ivan Leszczuk (Argentina): Leszczuk has been an key piece of Argentina’s puzzle on the way to a difficult semi-final in which he must undertake extra work because of the absence of Matías Sánchez.  Once in possession the former Boca Juniors teenager has the responsibility of feeding striker Sebastián Driussi and top-scoring Joaquín Ibáñez. Leszczuk, with two assists to his credit, expects a “very hard” game but one in which Argentina’s team ethic can prove decisive.

Raul Gudino (Mexico):  Gudino can be one of the decisive players for Mexico. The goalkeeper has been improving from game to game. In the opening match he suffered a six-goal beating but his confidence recovered as he conceded only two goals in the next four matches. Above all, against Brazil he stopped the Mosquito penalty in the shootout which opened Mexico’s path into the semifinals.

Alan Vaccaro & Angel Gonzalez Alpuche: AIPS      

Dubai (8pm local): Sweden v Nigeria      

Sixten Mohlin v Taiwo Awoniyi

Sixten Mohlin (Sweden): It is simple to say that the goalkeeper is the most important player in every match. But Mohlin’s performances with double saves and other crucial stops in the group stage gave Sweden a serious chance to entering the battle for medals. Against favourites Nigeria Mohlin may also have making amends in his mind after his mistake that cost a goal in the teams’ 3-3 draw in the group stage.

Taiwo Awoniyi (Nigeria):  After injury to star striker Isaac Success, Nigeria needed a new hero to make the difference so, right on cue, up stepped Awoniyi whose header grabbed a point for Nigeria in the first game and then two more against Uruguay to send his team into the semi-finals. Among impressed observers has been Ghana international Asamoah Gyan who told “He does all the work up there and creates a lot. This is my kind of player.”

 Linus Lindahl & Enitan Obadina: AIPS  


* AIPS, the international sports journalists association, is running a Young Reporters course at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 with the support of the local organising committee and FIFA

# # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # #