Navi Mumbai: Any world football tournament is never bereft of an obsession over Brazil, Argentina and the top European outfits. With the absence of the La Albiceleste at the Fifa U-17 World Cup, one would have expected a little more focus on the others.
While Indian football fans are rightly tuned into the rise and fall of their own team, most football fans would understandably remain transfixed on the Samba boys as well as those from the European continent. Somewhere in this milieu lies a window for all other sides to make their mark and shine. At the very top of this final category sits Paraguay, who have been the to beat at least in Group B. The team has quietly piled on the goals and have looked deadly while doing so.
Clubbed with low-profile teams like Mali, New Zealand and Turkey, Group B has not enjoyed intense fan focus as some of the other groups in the competition. Paraguay, though, has managed to wow the sparse crowd that makes its way to Navi Mumbai’s DY Patil Stadium on each match-day.
On Thursday, the South American side produced another clinical performance as they registered their third straight win as they quelled the slim chance Turkey harboured of making it to the pre-quarterfinals. Gustavi Morinigo’s team, who had already secured their progress into the round of 16, registered a 3-1 victory and their the preliminary round by sitting atop the Group B table.
Paraguay owe much of their success so far in the tournament to their its talismanic forward Leonardo Sanchez. The former was given a breather against Turkey. But, Paraguay’s deep bench strength was on full display.
They were all over the Turkish players right from kick-off. Forward Blas Armoa won his side a penalty after being felled by Turkey defender Abdussamed Karnucu. Vega, though, could not add to his tally as goal-keeper Berke Ozer guessed the right way.
Despite Sanchez’s absence and Vega’s failure to fire early in, Paraguay were hardly worse for wear. They had a number of shots on goal and found the back of the net in 41st minute as midfielder Giovanni Bogado converted through a fine freekick from the edge of the box.
Forward Fernando Cardoza doubled the lead two minutes later after he pounced on a ball from Blas Armoa to put his side in a commanding position. Paraguay would add to their tally in the second half after forward Antonio Galeano put the ball past Ozer after a lucky deflection.
In terms of possession, Turkey dominated proceedings after enjoying 60 % of the ball through the game. But, it is goals that win games and Turkey struggled to find the back of the net. They did pull one back in stoppage time through Kerem Kesgin but it was too little, too late.
Paraguay will go into their pre-quarterfinals having won all their group games. The impervious form will come under stiff examination when they enter the knockout stage. Meanwhile, in another Group B encounter in New Delhi, Mali registered a 3-1 win over New Zealand to secure safe passage into the round of 16.