By DAVID MOSSE
The last time Mexico reached this final of the Under-17 World Cup back in 2005, another South American country stood in its way, but Giovani dos Santos and Co. made short work of Brazil, notching a comprehensive 3-0 victory. Uruguay is the opponent this time around after Fabian Coito's side stunned the Brazilians to advance to the final of the competition for the first time.
Mexico is back in the final after stunning Germany, which had been the most impressive team so far, brushing aside opponents with relative ease. Steffen Freund's side met its match on Thursday, though, in a thrilling seesaw battle that ended when Julio Gomez scored in stoppage time to give Mexico a 3-2 win with a 90th-minute bicycle kick. (Full highlights can be seen here).
When the Germans took the lead in the second half through Emre Can they looked set to break the hearts of a lively crowd in Torreon, but Gomez played the role of hero. His collision with a German defender allowed Jorge Espericueta's corner to sail into the back of the net and also resulted in Gomez being stretchered off with a head injury. He eventually returned to score a goal for the ages.
The 16-year-old Gomez connected on a spectacular overhead kick to send his team into the final and the entire stadium into delirium. A second U-17 triumph in six years would stamp Mexico as one of the rising powers in international soccer, and while Uruguay represents a very dangerous opponent, it is difficult to imagine the hosts squandering this opportunity to make history.
The Celeste continue to display remarkable resourcefulness in attack, though, making the most of limited chances in its 3-0 victory over Brazil. Elbio Alvarez converted a first-half penalty to break the deadlock, while Juan San Martin and Guillermo Mendez struck after the break to seal a famous victory. Jim Varela will be back from suspension on Sunday for Uruguay, which faces a daunting task in trying to knock off the hosts.
Brazil enjoyed most of the possession on Thursday and created far more scoring opportunities, but Uruguay's stingy defense came through once again with goalkeeper Jonathan Cubero turning in a sensational performance. Both Ademilson and Lucas Piazon were denied several times, while the absence of Adryan through suspension proved too much to overcome.
Here is a closer look at the remaining matchups:
Brazil vs. Germany, Sunday, 4 p.m., ESPNU/ESPN3.com/Galavision
Brazil and Germany expected to meet under different circumstances on Sunday, but both teams paid the price for slack defending in their respective semifinals, and they will be merely playing for pride. Adryan returns from suspension, so Emerson Avila will finally be able to field his standout attacking trio again with the Flamengo playmaker partnering Ademilson and Lucas Piazon.
The question is whether Brazil's back line, which appeared so solid earlier in the tournament but collapsed in the past two games, can possibly contain the German attack. Freund's side has scored 20 goals in five games with Samed Yesil leading the way. Yesil found the back of the net for the sixth time against Mexico, while Can represents a dangerous weapon as well.
Uruguay vs. Mexico, Sunday, 7 p.m., ESPNU/ESPN3.com/Galavision
Mexico is poised to capture its second Under-17 World Cup title, but Raul Gutierrez's side must come down quickly from the elation of knocking off Germany, because Uruguay will be very tough to beat. The South Americans have conceded just three times in five games and are extremely resourceful in attack with Santiago Charamoni and Rodrigo Aguirre posing a significant threat.
Carlos Fierro has received most of the attention for Mexico, but Gomez emerged as the hero on Thursday and is another weapon Uruguay must contend with. Arturo Gonzalez and Marco Bueno are dangerous weapons as well, while Antonio Briseno anchors the back-line. FC Dallas Homegrown Player Richard Sanchez has experienced shaky moments in goal, but the hosts are certainly the favorites.
Who do you see winning the U-17 World Cup final? Wat about the third-place game? Which players have impressed you the most in this tournament?