Argentina and Brazil are out of the U-20s for the first time but they are still producing big-time talent. By Frank Dell'Apa.
By Frank Dell’Apa
On the day Argentina was virtually eliminated from the U-20 South American World Cup qualifiers last week, Paulo Dybala was in the Palermo lineup in a Serie A match against Napoli .
Dybala might not have been able to prevent Argentina’s ouster from the event. But there is an excellent chance Dybala could have made a difference, if Palermo had released him for the tournament.
Consider the performance of Nicolas Lopez, who leads the tournament in scoring with five goals for Uruguay .
AS Roma, confident in its attacking depth, allowed Lopez to join Uruguay in December. Roma had used Lopez as late relief for Francesco Totti and, possibly, could have done so in a 1-1 tie with Inter Sunday.
Palermo, though, does not have the luxury of risking the loss of its best young prospect.
Dybala, 19, provided the go-ahead goal in a 2-2 tie with Lazio Saturday as Palermo fights to escape the relegation zone. Dybala made an inspired, instinctive run to finish off the play, the type of move which confirms Palermo ’s 11.9 million euro investment in him.
It does not take much imagination to project what a goal such as that one would have meant to the Argentina U-20 team, especially in the decisive 2-2 tie with Bolivia Jan. 13.
Six teams remain in contention in the U-20 Sudamericanos , which conclude Feb. 3. The top four advance to the FIFA U-20s in Turkey June 20-July 13 and, for the first time, neither Argentina nor Brazil will be in the finals.
Judging by the performance of Argentina and Brazil, neither deserved to advance to the Hexagonal phase. Other teams have displayed excellent football or have been resourceful when it counted.
And, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay have shown they have plenty of talent.
But that does not mean Argentina and Brazil are falling off the production line.
When Brazil was being eliminated by Peru last Friday, Marcos Aoas Correa (Marquinhos ) was with AS Roma preparing for the Inter match. Marquinhos is a central defender who was with Corinthians last year and is now starting for an elite Serie A club at the age of 18.
Roma made a calculated decision in allowing Lopez to join Uruguay and preventing Marquinhos from going to Brazil .
And it is not difficult to imagine where the Charruas might be without Lopez' goals. And where Brazil could have been with Marquinhos on the back line.