THE DAY REPLAYED - After a rejuvenating day of rest for some tired bodies, this Thursday 9 November served up four superb quarter-finals. While favourites France, Brazil and Portugal reached the final four without too much difficulty, the clash between Argentina and Uruguay remained in the balance right until the end.
Saturday's semi-finals already have a lively look about them, starting with a contrast of styles between the French and Uruguayans. A little later comes Brazil v. Portugal, a match that would be worthy of a final itself and one which is sure to be a stunning spectacle.
ce 3 - 2 Japan:
Les Bleus always on top
Having expected a hard time against a solid Japanese side, the French managed to do enough to make the final four. In what was a re-play of last year's semi-final (4-1), Eric Cantona's braves bided their time and took the chances that came their way. 3-0 ahead going into the final minute, the reigning champions then endured a moment or two of unease after suddenly conceding two goals to Toma and then Kuroki. ''We should have taken more risks," declared the somewhat downcast Japanese captain Takeshi Kawaharazuka after the match. In their semi-final with Uruguay on Saturday, France will be aware that a similar lapse in concentration could be much more costly.
Brazil 12-1 Canada: a stroll on the beach...
It took just four minutes for Brazil to carve open the Canadian defence, whereupon the Auriverdes gradually accumulated a huge margin of victory made eminently easier by some North American frailty. At the final whistle the Canucks' shooting attempts did not even make the 20 mark, a degree of firepower that was never going to trouble a team of Brazil's calibre. 'We held out well during the first two periods but it then became impossible," admitted Canada's goalscorer Sipho Sibiya. "We've got a very young squad, and these Brazilians have always played on sand. It was a good feeling to score against such a side, but I wish I could have helped my team-mates out a bit more.''
Portugal 6-2 Bahrain: nice one, Madjer!
Without their star player, Portugal would perhaps not be about to contest a final in all but name against Brazil on Saturday. Short on inspiration for long periods in the face of a Bahraini 'brick wall', Ze Miguel's men have four new strikes from their mercurial number seven to thank for their place in the semi-finals. As is his wont, the competition's top scorer (16 goals) was humble as ever at full time: ''It's always nice for a sportsman to break records (Madjer scored 12 goals in last year's edition), but the most important thing is to beat Brazil. What matters to me is to win this title, and nothing else.''
Argentina 1-2 Uruguay: Celeste sneak through
This last quarter-final offered us a clasico of a type only South Americans can produce. In what proved a fiercely competitive fixture, Argentina looked the more complete side and, after holding the lead for a long time, seemed destined to go through to a semi-final against reigning world champions France. However, two twists of fate then intervened to turn the tie on its head in the last two minutes. First, Albiceleste goalkeeper Marcelo Salgueiro grabbed the ball outside his area, allowing Ricar to equalise from the resulting free kick. Then seconds later, Miguel saw his shot kick up off the sand and loop over the stranded Salgueiro. This surprising turnaround, which came to late for Argentina to respond, provoked a stormy end to the encounter.