SANTOS ATTAIN ELAN U/19 TOURNEY
By: Khanyisani Dlomo
Brazilian giants Santos exhibited a clinical performance to claim the inaugural eLan Durban International Football Tournament at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday evening.
Igor Santana’s brace in the second half was enough for the South American side, who displayed great football throughout the tournament, to defeat the Portuguese side Benfica.
Santos won two out of three games in the group stages before knocking out the Dutch side Feyenoord in the semi-finals in Umlazi. Matheus Silva finished the tournament as the leading goal-scorer with three goals.
Argentina’s Boca Juniors claimed bronze after beating Feyenoord 4-2 on penalties after a one-all draw in regulation time.
Skilful forward Leonardo Suarez, who was named the Player of the Tournament, opened the scoring but his teammate Kevin Wila levelled matters after putting the ball into his own net.
Santos coach Alexandre Macia said, “It was a nice championship. We are preparing our players to go to the first team. This is a good beginning.”
“We are very happy and proud of the boys. If we get invited next year, we would come because the people of Durban gave us good support.
“With a championship like this with first world European teams like Everton, Roma and Feyenoord, we are very happy to be in the tournament,” Macia added.
Benfica coach Joao Tralhao said it was a memorable tournament and is proud of his young guns.
“We leave South Africa with warm and happy memories. It was a pleasure to participate in this tournament. At the moment we are at the beginning of the season. We want to prepare players for the next generation of Benfica,” said Tralhao.
“Of course we are disappointed about losing in the final but I’m proud of my boys because they did a wonderful job with just two weeks of preparation,” Tralhao added.
The tournament came after almost a year since the South African Football Association President, Danny Jordaan – who attended the opening and final game – vowed to revolutionize the country’s football by prioritizing and strengthening youth development.
Jordaan said, “We said we should focus and strengthen our development structures. For that, we put in two teams from KwaZulu-Natal and SAFA under-19. That gives us an impression of how much more work this country must do before we can stand among the major nations of football.”