A much changed Argentina under-20 lineup cruised into the final stage of the South American championship yesterday evening in Colonia after a 3-0 win over Group A whipping boys, Bolivia. Another brace from Giovani Simeone and a late Facundo Cardozo header sent Humberto Grondona’s side through as group winners after the later match between Paraguay and Peru ended all square.
After the failure of two years ago, on home soil, when Argentina failed to make it through the first group stage, qualification comes as a relief in Uruguay. Barring the frustrating defeat to Paraguay, the tournament thus far has been relatively straight forward. Ecuador provided little resistance, Peru shot themselves in the foot and Bolivia were never likely to provide a test but there are certainly question marks remaining ahead of the final stage and the sterner tests from Uruguay, Brazil and Colombia.
It would have come as an almighty shock had Argentina failed to qualify ahead of last night’s match as Bolivia were still without a point and Los Pibes were already on the verge. It did not take long for this view to be vindicated as the lively Leonardo Súarez laid on the simplest of goals for Giovani Simeone after just 5 minutes.
Shortly after, the pair linked up again with the same result. Súarez latching on to a ball over the top, beating goalkeeper, Pedro Galindo to the ball and leaving Simeone to brush the ball into the net from a yard out.
Simeone is that curious breed of striker who never quite seems to grab a match by the horns and terrorise defences and yet has the uncanny ability of just being in the correct position at the right time. With six goals already in the tournament, he looks odds on to claim the golden boot, but in truth with some of the chances created (and missed) this tally could well have been in double figures already.
Like the Ecuador and Peru matches before them, the contest appeared over well before half time and so the second half was more of a practice than anything else. Eventually, Argentina did muster a third when Facundo Cardozo thumped in a header when left unmarked 8 yards out and so it was job done as far as Grondona was concerned.
Perhaps the one negative was the knee injury sustained by Racing youngster, Lucas Bareiro who will now miss the rest of the tournament.
Argentina go through as group winners, joined by Paraguay and Peru and although the places are not guaranteed in Group B we already know that they are accompanied by Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia. Grondona will be pleased that his side are the tournaments leading scorers and after resting several players for the Bolivia match has some good options ahead of the final stage. However, it remains to be seen how they will react against better defensive sides and those that will put the somewhat erratic defense under scrutiny.
Argentina 3 – 0 Bolivia