LUCA BIANCHIN / AIPS* in DUBAI: The FIFA Under-17 World Cup is the Achilles heel for Argentina, the only tournament the Albiceleste have never won.
However, Humberto Grondona’s team have reached the quarter-finals after overcoming Tunisia 3-1 in Dubai mainly thanks to a heeled goal by Joaquin Ibanez. Tunisia, impressive in the group stage, could not get the better from their defence and went out again in the Round of 16, as in 2007.
On Saturday, Argentina will meet the Ivory Coast in the last eight and can look forward to a possible semi-final clash against Brazil.
Argentina, in the group stage, trailed against both Iran and Austria but this time secured the best possible start. In the second minute a Luis Leszczuk cross was diverted by Ibanez then German Ferreyra connected for his second goal of the tournament.
Abdelhay Ben Soltane, Tunisia’s coach, looked worried on the bench but his team showed fight and quickly bounced back. Hazem Haj Hassen escaped his marker with a brilliant dribble but crossed badly then made it 1-1 two minutes before half-time. Ben Salem controlled the ball in an offside position and found Haj Hassen whose shot was not powerful but precise enough to take Augusto Batalla by surprise.
Fighting back has never been a problem throughout this World Cup campaign for both Tunisia and Argentina but the South Americans are the more talented team.
Lanus’ Ibanez showed off all his flair eight minutes into the second half. Sebastian Driussi passed the ball to the centre for the oncoming Leszczuk, the ball rolled towards the net and was backheeled by Ibanez for one of the best goals of the World Cup.
Argentina, leading again, took control of the game and scored a third goal in the 28th minute. Driussi shielded the ball with his body, shot from outside the penalty area and dedicated his second goal in the tournament to his girlfriend Ana. Game, set and match to Argentina.
Argentina’s coach Humberto Grondona praised Tunisia as “tough rivals” who had made life difficult until “we were pretty fortunate to score two more goals.” He described his own team’s effort as “magnificent” and said no-one would ever hear him complaining about the conditions.
Grondona said: “We’re here to play the World Cup, doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold, if we have to suffer a time change or whatever . We won’t complain because we’ll accept every condition. We’re very well prepared.”
Tunisia’s Abdelhay Ben Soltane thought the difference between the teams was the individualistic talent typical of all South American teams. He had hoped his team could go further than in 2007, when they also fell in the second round, but was pleased with the experience gained by his players.
He said: “Most important for us is that we make our players play good football, become good footballers for the future. Those players were with me for years, I raised them, I know them well, they did well and I’m happy with that.
“Teams like Argentina have big experience in World Cups so that makes a difference.”
* 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
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