Group B housing Paraguay, Mali, New Zealand and Turkey became the first group to see off their run of fixtures in the group stages. Hosting countries from various continents just like the other groups, Group B did not contain a household name which a normal fan would put down as a title contender. However Paraguay’s dominance of the group was the clue as to how they may travel the distance in the tournament. A close contest between the winners and runners, Paraguay and Mali respectively, which ended 3-2 in favour of the South Americans, upped the ante in the group in early stages.
Confirming their route to their place in the Round of 16 after two wins from two games, Paraguay faced Turkey on their last game while Mali left it late till the last game to confirm their place on the same day. Mali’s N’Diaye surely have been the key for the Africans going forward as he has topped the goal scoring charts of the group with 3 goals in 3 games, consistently scoring against all the teams.
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Winners of the group | Paraguay:
Thanks to their third-place finish in this year’s South American U-17 Championship, Paraguay booked their tickets to India. Seeing them placed in Pot 4, not many would’ve expected Paraguay to qualify for the round of 16. However Paraguay got lucky as they were drawn alongside the likes of New Zealand, Mali and Turkey in Group B. Though losing a two goal lead in their first match of the campaign would’ve been disappointing, Paraguay came back to take the lead again courtesy of a penalty.
In what should be described as one of the better games of the Group, the 3-2 win over Mali showed what the u-17 team of Paraguay was capable of. With three players Rodriguez, Antonio Galeano and Anibel Vega topping the group with 2 goals each, Paraguay have concentrated more on their strength. Going forward, the South Americans have troubled their opponents scoring 10 goals in just three games averaging 3.33 goals per game.
However the defence should be the other major concern for Gustavo Morinigo as his side has failed to keep a clean sheet and in the process they have conceded five goals in return. In their second match of the campaign, Paraguay came back from behind to win 4-2 having gone 2-1 behind, once again proving their ability to score from tight situations. In their third and final game, goals from Bogado, Cardozo and Galeano secured Paraguay’s 3-1 win over Turkey.
The other team to qualify – Mali:
With Paraguay already qualified, three teams battled for the second spot on the last day with Mali being the favourites to win the race. And they proved it right when they scored 3 past New Zealand to clinch 6 points from 3 games. Opening the tournament with a 3-2 defeat against group winners Paraguay, Mali fought back well as they won their next two games. Mali have also inspired with their attacking performances as they racked up 8 goals in the three games.
Key matches/crucial encounters:
Paraguay 3-2 Mali
In the second game of the group, Paraguay took on Mali in the DY Patil Stadium, Mumbai as the game turned out to be one of the crackers of the tournament. Paraguay took the early 2-0 lead through Sanchez and Galeano as Mali was thwarted at the back. However Paraguay threw away their two goal lead when Drame and N’Diaye scored for the Africans. As the game neared the hour mark, Rodriguez scored the decisive goal from the spot. The game showed how both the teams had prepared themselves for the tournament by being very aggressive and going for goal rather than sitting back to see off the opponents.
Paraguay 4-2 New Zealand
Starting from qualification to the tournament and ranking in pot 4, Paraguay were not the favourites as they were not expected to finish as the winners of a group. However with their second win of the tournament in their second game, Paraguay sealed the spot into the round of 16, in emphatic fashion. Paraguay took a very early lead in the game only for their captain Duarte to cancel it by scoring two own-goals. Thanks to their persistence they scored three goals in the final 15 minutes of the game to complete a great turnaround, thereby booking their place in the last 16.
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