The Under-17 World Cup has often provided football fans with a dazzling glimpse of the future and it looks like this year’s edition in Indonesia will prove no different. Not least with regards to two of Argentina and River Plate’s most spectacular young talents; Claudio Echeverri and Agustín Ruberto.
Today their dream of winning the tournament ended but nonetheless they have been the two stand-out individuals of the whole competition so far.
A cruel semi-final ended in defeat for Argentina after a penalty shoot-out with Germany. Argentina went behind early, then came back to go 2-1 up, but found themselves 3-2 down in the final minutes thanks to a crazy game of football and a few horrendous defensive errors.
Then, in the 97th minute of the match, Agustín Ruberto completed his hat-trick to equalise once more and the classic encounter finished 3-3 after normal time. Sadly for Argentina though, it wasn’t to be, and as they usually do; the Germans won the shoot-out.
Claudio Echeverri had already bagged a hat-trick of his own in an historic quarter-final victory over rivals Brazil just days earlier. At times in that tie you could see why Echeverri has been compared to the great Lionel Messi, he slalomed through the Brazil defence like they didn’t exist and took his reputation in the sport to a whole new level.
Ruberto and Echeverri are currently the top two goalscorers of the U-17 World Cup and both will be in the mix for the player of the tournament award no matter what happens in the final. The duo linked up emphatically as the striker and attacking midfielder of an Argentina side that looked like it was marching towards another World Cup title. This year it will be France and Germany who do battle for gold, but the future is looking very bright for the land of Messi and Maradona.
At the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India, England were crowned Champions and a young Phil Foden was named as the player of the tournament. Foden of course has gone on to achieve great things by winning a European treble for Manchester City since then. At just 23 years of age has already won the league five times.
At the U-17 World Cup in 2015 the top scorer with 10 goals was Victor Osimhen. Nigeria won the title as Osimhen bagged a goal in every single game of the tournament from the group stages right through to the final. Last year he helped lead Napoli to a famous Serie A title.
Many players hit the heights at youth football but fail to make it in the senior game. Freddy Adu is one of many. In fact, this happens more often than not. However it feels like there is something different about Echeverri and Ruberto; the dynamic pair led Argentina to just their second U17 World Cup semi-final in the last two decades and shone the brightest in their biggest test as young footballers so far.
In 2005 a young man called Lionel Messi starred for Argentina at the U20 World Cup. He too was only 17 at the time. Messi led Argentina all the way to win that title and finished the tournament as top goalscorer; ahead of the likes of Radamel Falcao and David Silva. There is no better idol for the likes of Ruberto and Echeverri.
Both have impressed for Argentine Giants River Plate at underage level and are making their way to the big time. Ruberto scored for the club reserve side last time out and Echeverri has already made his debut for the senior team.
The likes of Fabrizio Romano are now brandishing release clauses on social media. There is no doubt that after their sterling effort at this World Cup, Europe’s biggest clubs will be circling like vultures.
Of course both young players will be devastated that they haven’t gone all the way in Indonesia, but as the South American season comes to a close and they get their feet up for some rest in the summer, they will soon realise that they have achieved big things.
Calls from agents will be flooding in and online rumours will continue to spread. Echeverri and Ruberto will need to keep their feet firmly on the ground when making their next move if they are to succeed in their quest to become Argentina’s next generation of superstars.