William Sinsky has a look at the players that stood out during the U-20 World Cup semi-final that finished Uruguay 1-1 Venezuela (3-4 on pens)
In Daejeon, South Korea, Uruguay and Venezuela faced off in what would prove to be a truly dramatic U-20 World Cup Semifinal. After a spectacular injury time free kick equalizer by Venezuela, the match headed to extra time and ultimately ended in penalties, which saw La Vinotinto reach their first ever U-20 World Cup Final. Looking past the emotion, there were three players who put on exceptional tactical performances for their national teams.
Venezuela’s forward Adalberto Penaranda Maestre controls the ball against Uruguay. (Photo credit: YELIM LEE/AFP/Getty Images)
Coming into this match, Venezuela not only had conceded just one goal in the entire tournament, but they also had scored the most goals, with an impressive 13 in five matches. That’s thanks in large part to Adalberto Penaranda. The winger from Malaga (on loan from Watford) can play forward in the attack as well as back in defense, which he did throughout the match. Using his six-foot-tall frame, he was fast and strong in Venezuela’s pressing game, tracking back and simply taking the ball off the possessor numerous times. On the ball, his dribbling skills were unmatched on the pitch, receiving the ball in Uruguay’s half and swiftly moving through defenders. Despite losing the ball once or twice, his explosive, dynamic play kept Uruguay’s attack silent for most of the match and provided Venezuela with the chances needed to succeed.
Nicolas De La Cruz
Uruguay’s midfielder Nicolas De La Cruz was one of the best players on the pitch. (Photo credit: YELIM LEE/AFP/Getty Images)
It’s rare that a player gets labelled as one of the three best players in a match in which he receives a yellow card and misses the game-saving penalty, but that just shows how much of an effort Uruguay captain Nicolas De La Cruz put into his performance. De La Cruz did it all for La Celeste; took free kicks, corner kicks, penalties, defended, and dictated the tempo and direction in attack. His penalty goal in the 49th minute was scored quickly and smoothly. Across the pitch, De La Cruz played as a box to box midfielder. His intelligence with the ball led to some creative chances for Uruguay, unfortunately none which his teammates were able to finish.
Venezuela’s goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez in action for the senior team against Peru. (Photo credit: FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images)
At the conclusion of the match, there was one player who was impossible leave off the MVP list. Venezuelan keeper Wuilker Farinez made six saves against Uruguay, nearly all of them high-level saves. His reach was imposing despite being only 5’9”, and his passing out of the back was effective. Add to that two outstanding penalty saves in the penalty shootout, including the game-winning save that took Venezuela that much closer to the U-20 World Cup trophy, and you have your Man of the Match.
Will Sinsky is a soccer analyst and aspiring coach who lives in the United States. He currently works as a statistician at Sportradar US.
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