Goals galore in Helsinki, lots drawn in Turku
THE DAY REPLAYED - Day 5 saw two quarter-final fixtures established, a storm of goals in Helsinki and an improbable finish to Group B. Fifteen goals tumbled out of the cold night in the capital as the hosts were demolished 1-9 by a suddenly rampant Colombia who finished top of Group A. Argentina too showed their class to take Group B’s top honours with a 1-0 win over Nigeria in a rain-soaked Turku, while Costa Rica put two past pointless Australia to force the tensest of finishes to a tight group. After the Russian roulette of drawn lots behind closed doors, the courageous and classy Central Americans joined Mexico as second-place qualifiers at the expense of Nigeria.
Already eliminated China, determined to show their mettle and take a point back home for pride’s sake, drew 3-3 with Mexico at Töölö stadium in one of the most exciting matches of the first round. After seeing their 1-0 lead disintegrate for the third-time in the tournament, they stormed back manfully to bring it to 2-1. And after being reduced to ten men following a worrisome scuffle near the Mexican penalty area, the bustling Asians saw their lead vanish yet again. But with only nine minutes to go, they restored parity one final time for their one and only point of the finals.
Hao Junmin wriggled through the defence and tapped a brilliant square ball to the effervescent Jiang Chen who made no mistake to fire low and hard for his third goal of the tournament. It was the only goal of the match scored with a foot, and not coming from a set piece.
The draw sees Mexico through as second-place finishers, setting up a tantalising quarter-final in Lahti with Group B kingfishers Argentina. China finish up their finals campaign with a long flight home, joining Group D’s disappointing Korea Republic as the second Asian side eliminated after three matches – leaving only Group C’s Yemen to fly the AFC flag.
After the match, Rafael Murguia told of coach Humberto Grondona’s inspirational words at the half. “He told us that we better settle down and play football if we wanted to qualify.”
Mexico qualify in six-goal thriller
fairly easy affair in Turku saw Argentina handily take the laurels in Group B when Alejandro Faurlin collected an acrobatic pass and slammed home past Nigerian keeper Ambruse Yanzekin for the only goal of the match.
Afterwards Argentine boss Hugo Tocalli gave the world some indication of his team’s justifiable confidence heading into the quarter-final with Mexico.
“Our goal was always to win all six of our matches in Finland,” he said. And with nine points from three matches, no goals conceded, and team leader Lucas Biglia back from injury, one might say the Albiceleste are halfway to grabbing their first FIFA U-17 World Championship crown.
Argentina cruise through, Nigeria suffer cruel fate
Finland fricasseed, lots drawn in Turku
Colombian Carlos Hidalgo’s 15th minute free kick had the brave Vintiöt chasing the game early. Despite, fighting tooth-and-nail, the Finns were forced to suffer one of the worst defeats in tournament history on the wrong end of a 1-9 battering. Hidalgo stormed through to score three more, tying Freddy Adu’s fabulous four and sharing current tournament topscorer bragging rights. Gustavo Adrian Ramos also earned himself a hat-trick while captain Fredy Guarin and Juan Gilberto Nunez each got one.
Nine of the best as Colombia crush the hosts
s goals tumbled out of the sky in the capital, the heavens opened in Turku with sweeping gusts of rain thundering down on the pitch when Costa Rica took on already eliminated Australia.
With all to play for, the Ticos surged into attack against Australia in Group B’s final match. The bustling Joeys did their best to show some spirit and avoid a third straight defeat. But reduced to ten men after Matt Hilton was sent off in the first half, a second half penalty from Pablo Rodriguez and another goal from Alonso Salazar saw Costa Rica run over the Aussies in a fiery encounter full of true grit and honest endeavour. And with the result, the highly improbable became reality as the Central Americans and Nigeria finished tied on four points, with an even goal difference and a draw in the head-to-head showdown. The numbers glut saw the two teams forced to draw lots to decide the second place finisher.
Lady Luck sends Ticos to seventh heaven
As the Nigerian and Costa Rican players bit their nails and prayed nervously to the heavens, two representatives (one from each side) were led into the General Coordinator’s office.
FIFA U-17 World Championship Regulations
When word came back, after what must have seemed an eternity to the two teams, the shouts of delight from the Costa Rican dressing room could almost be heard all the way in Helsinki, where Group A finishers and waiting opponents Colombia were celebrating their own - more conventional - passage to the quarter-finals.