Portugal pip Cameroon, Spain top USA
THE DAY REPLAYED - Finland 2003 is proving to be one of the most fascinating FIFA competitions of recent times. Day 6, involving Groups C and D, was every bit as action-packed as the previous five with a stunning 60-yard strike, an amazing, agonising comeback and an eight-minute hat-trick all coming in the sensational make-or-break Portugal-Cameroon clash. After the tears had been wiped away, the teams left standing are all from the American continent and Europe. Nations from Asia and, for the first time since the junior event began in 1985, Africa have all failed to make it past the group stage.
Brazil, who comfortably beat Yemen 3-0 for top spot of Group C, now meet USA in Turku on Sunday, while Group D victors Spain, who defeated the Americans in what became a battle for first place, will go to Tampere to take on archrivals Portugal in a mouth-watering rematch of the UEFA European U-17 Final won by the Lusitanian hosts.
Brazil dispose of courageous Yemen
Meanwhile four teams bowed out: Korea Republic, proudly after dashing any hopes daredevil debutants Sierra Leone had of reaching the second round; Yemen having won many fans with their endearing approach and Cameroon, whose Lion Cubs roared loud but just too late, coming back from 5-0 down to finish 5-5 against a Portugal side leaking goals in the do-or-die battle.
Fans in Tampere had already been privileged to watch some amazing contests in Group C. But what they witnessed on the night of Wednesday 20 August is something they will be telling their grandchildren about. After being crucified 5-0 in their previous match against Brazil, Portugal were intent not only on grabbing the point to go through to the next stage, but to prove that that match was a blip.
Portugal and Cameroon go down in U-17 history
And that was exactly what the European champions started off doing. The talented tiny figure of Vieira, who had disappointed so far in the finals, showed just why hosts of scouts are falling over one another to grab his attention with what must be the goal of this or any other junior tournament. The Porto player picked up the ball in his own half on the edge of the centre-circle, spotted Luc Kalapach slightly off his line and arrowed a shot from fully 60 yards over the young keeper’s head and into the back of the net. There was a brief moment of stunned silence at the Ratina stadium. Then, as one, Finnish fans stood up and applauded while Portugal’s players piled on top of the diminutive figure of Vieira.
“I took up the ball but I could not make a pass, so I took the chance and I was lucky,” said the modest 17-year-old. “It’s the most beautiful goal I have scored in my life.”
I cannot explain it,” said his coach Violante. “He is gifted, he sees things on the pitch that others don’t.”
“I have never seen it in a game only in training,” added Cameroon coach Abee.
The electrifying effort seemed to magnetise Antonio Violante’s team and Manuel Curto in particular. Minutes later, he had notched a hat-trick and they were 4-0 up. Another strike from Bruno Gama and they were well on their way to gaining some form of revenge after their humiliating 5-0 reversal against Brazil just days before and setting up an all-Iberian quarter-final clash.
But Cameroon had not read the script. Faced with their own damaging defeat and that of Africa, Anatole Abee’s Lion Cubs were stirred into the action and helped by the introduction of Serge Ngal they clawed their way back into the game. With just over half and hour left, 5-0 became, 5-1, 5-2, 5-3…suddenly Portugal, who had conceded eight goals in their two previous matches, were showing an extreme version of their Jeykll and Hyde personality and the crowd turned to urge on the African charge. 5-4 and, four minutes into stoppage time, 5-5. With Portugal floored, it was Cameroon who had failed to beat the count.
Gunning for revenge
They all, 22 young footballers, dropped to the ground at the final whistle as the audience thundered their appreciation. They then picked themselves up still shaking their heads, met in the semi-circle and embraced one another. A real show of affection in what was an emotional evening of true entertainment.
Despite conceding 13 goals in three games, Portugal will remain in the Ratina theatre for the quarter-final against Spain on Sunday.
“It will be a different game to the European final,” said Violante. “They will be going for revenge but we will stand up and try to win.”
The first matches of the day began with three of the teams able to qualify for the next round. With four points from their first two matches, Brazil were virtually secured of a place in the quarter-finals but Yemen and Sierra Leone, with a point a piece, needed a win and other results to go their way to qualify.
yeaFor a moment, as a big, bright sun burst forth 15 minutes into the second half in Lahti, the freak occurrence of lots being drawn for a successive day was on when Sierra Leone striker Obi Metzeger span 25 yards out and powered the ball past Cha Ki Seok and inside his right post for his second goal of the game and a 2-1 lead.
But Yoon Deok Yong’s boys were not to succumb for a third time after taking the lead and Yang Dong Hyen for 2-2 and Lee Yong Rae for the winner swept the young Taeguk Warriors to their first victory and the only Asian win of the finals.
Korea sink Sierra Leone in seesaw battle
We lacked discipline towards the end of the game,” lamented Sierra Leone coach Musa Kallon. “It cost us dearly in all three matches as we conceded goals. We could have had 9 points but one win would have been nice to take home.”
Meanwhile in Tampere Brazil were strolling against Yemen and after a scorching third goal from Arouca, the game was finally up for the combative Yemen side. The other Asian team had fought well on their debut in a FIFA competition and make the long journey home with heads held high.
In Group D’s second match, as expected John Ellinger chose to start without Freddy Adu, who was on two yellow cards. And the absence of the Talismanic figure appeared to upset the American flow. With Sisi buzzing on the right and Silva, fresh from his 45-minute hat-trick, on the right, Spain’s coach Juan Santisteban had the perfect balance and they swarmed all over the US from the opening whistle. A goal in each half from Jurado and Cesc was enough for the impressive Iberians - though Santisteban’s heart was given its usual flutter with the sending off of Silva. The Valencia man goes from hero to villain after lashing out late in the opening period and now misses the quarter-final clash.
Spain smash lacklustre USA to top Group D
On a day of high drama, the teenagers took their merited bows at the end of a sensational group phase. Some will board planes while the show goes on for others, but after captivating crowds in Finland, their names seem destined to reappear on an even bigger stage in the not too distant future.