The title holders of North America, South America and Africa all set out on their FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019™ voyages on Monday, and all three sides encountered formidable opponents unafraid to go toe to toe with champions.
South American kings Argentina settled for a goalless draw with Spain in one of the marquee early match-ups at Brazil 2019. In Group E’s late kick-off, Tajikistan upended Cameroon 1-0 in the shock result of the evening. It was the Asian side’s second win ever at a U-17 World Cup, their first coming twelve years ago against USA.
Group F’s two matches offered contrasting stories. European runners-up Italy dispelled any notion of Solomon Islands making a game of it by scoring three first-half goals and cruising to a 5-0 win. On the other end of the spectrum, Concacaf champions Mexico ran up against a physical Paraguay bunch that muscled El Tri’s attackers off the scoresheet for another 0-0 tie.
? Memorable moments
Africa holders stunned
Tajikistan’s triumph over Cameroon ironically ensured that Africa’s champions were the only team from the continent to not win their opening match. Tajikistan’s head coach, Zaynidin Rakhimov, made a perfect pair of half-time subs – Amadoni Kamolov and Rustam Soirov came off the bench and combined to win the penalty kick that sealed the game.
Azzurrini’s unexpected star
Fifteen-year-old Inter Milan prodigy Wilfried Gnonto, Italy’s youngest player, expressed surprise when he found out he had been included in the World Cup squad. On Monday, he looked like one of the squad’s best players. Gnonto, who turns 16 on 5 November, torched Solomon Islands defenders for two goals and one assist in a 10-minute span during the first half.
Palacios’ near-golazo from 60 yards
It would be easy to dismiss a draw without goals as a match that lacked intrigue, back doing so for Spain-Argentina would be a mistake. Argentina’s Matias Palacios nearly netted a goal of the tournament contender when his shot from 60 yards hit the crossbar. The skill levels of the players and tactics of the coaches were some of the best Brazil 2019 has offered, too.