MUMBAI: Almost as if to compensate for its absence on the previous two match days, the sun was beating down hard on the lush green turf at DY Patil Stadium as the Paraguay and Turkey players warmed up for their final Group B match on Thursday.
You immediately knew which of the two teams would have been a tad worried about this change in scenery. The Turkey coach Mehmet Hacioglu had lamented the flagging endurance levels of his players after their first two games. Soaring mercury levels was the last thing he needed.
A heavy defeat to Mali on Monday meant Hacioglu’s side only had one point following their draw against New Zealand here in their opener last week. As the last Under-17 World Cup two years ago showed, the four teams that qualified for the last 16 stage as best-ranked third-placed teams each had at least four points. Hacioglu thus knew only a win could extend his side’s stay in India.
A blunt assessment of Thursday’s encounter would tell you they never really came close as Paraguay, already assured of their place in the last 16 going into this game, continued their free-scoring ways to seal a 3-1 victory and finish top of Group B with a maximum haul of nine points.
A text-book free kick by Giovanni Bogado that went in off the underside of the crossbar gave Los Guaranies the lead in the 41st minute. It was a blow they had barely recovered from when two minutes later Paraguay forward Fernando Cardozo timed his run into the box well enough to flick the ball from behind him inside the far post following a pass from Blas Armoa.
The manner of Paraguay’s third goal in the 61st minute aptly summed up Turkey’s evening and, one would think, their campaign in general. Antonio Galeano‘s left-footed shot from just outside the penalty area took a wicked deflection off Turkey defender Melih Gokcimen and trickled into the goal as Berke Ozer, who had done well to save Anibal Vega’s second-minute penalty, could only look on in frustration.
Turkey did get on the scoresheet in the third minute of injury time through a fine solo effort from Kerem Kesgin but that was all Hacioglu’s boys were left to savour on another miserable evening for a team that reached the semifinals of the Under-17 European Championship held earlier this year.