Group D: Astounding Adu and silky Silva shine in Lahti
1. Spain, 7pts.
Spain stormed through to take top honours in Lahti’s Group D after starting slowly with a troubling 3-3 draw against African upstarts Sierra Leone. Determined to show their pedigree and true class in the second match against Korea Republic, they must have been scratching their heads in utter disbelief after going 2-0 down. But scintillating supersub and Valencia man Silva - who came on at the half for his first taste of football at the finals - turned the match with a genuine hat-trick over 45 minutes of fabulous football. With three perfectly taken goals, the left-sided wonder linked up well with pre-tournament touted starlet David to send Spain soaring toward top of the group. And after a Jurado-led win over the States in their third and final match, the Iberians were well on course for glory. With the speedy and silky skilled Sisi providing peerless service wide on the right right, Spain lived up to their billing as favourites, showing great confidence and maturity to right the ship after an edgy start.
2. United States, 6 pts.
The United States produced one of the true sensations of the first round – when Freddy Adu put some substance behind all of the media hype that seems to swirl around him. fter watching his team go down 1-0 to the Koreans in their opening match, the 14-year-old picked up his head some 40 yards from goal and burst past four defenders and around keeper Cha Ki Seok to slot home an extravagant opener and sound a warning to those who would doubt his breath-taking skills as a footballer. Two more in the 6-1 drubbing, and a late winner against Sierra Leone saw the tournament’s youngest player stamp his authority as a footballer very much on a meteoric rise. Alongside bustling strike partner Jamie Watson, the tandem are far more than the simple sum of their parts. And American Coach John Ellinger has every confidence in his terrific twosome. “The two have a tremendous understanding…and they work wonders together.”
3. Korea Republic, 3 pts.
The courageous Koreans were full of running and fighting spirit, but there was very little else in their bag beyond honest endeavour and hard battle. Goalkeeper Cha Ki Seok kept the Asians’ embarrassment to a minimum with some fine saves over the course of three matches against top-notch competition. Han Dong Wan added a touch of class up front as a both creator and ruthless finisher. A fine piece of individual brilliance against Sierra Leone made all the difference as the Taeguk Warriors became the only AFC side to win a match at Finland 2003. Cutting this way and that to leave his marker for dead, he curled a wonderful dipping shot past stand-in keeper Unisa Bangura.
4. Sierra Leone, 1 pts.
Sierra Leone, though lacking discipline and overall organisation, were never as bad as their last-place finish suggested. Never played off the park, the footballers from the war-torn and cash-strapped West African nation were talented and bright – but also vividly unlucky and naïve. With brilliant captain Samuel Barlay bustling to lead the African’s substantial charge with a wonderful creative streak and two goals to boot, the talented team were at times an absolute delight to watch. Obi Metzger’s two goals – including a long-range stunner against Korea - saw the striker live up to his pre-finals billing, while the defensive work of Umaru Bangura kept the often-times ragged rearguard in some semblance of shape.
Barlay and Bangura are both outstanding players,” said Sierra Leone head coach Musa Kallon about his starlets. “And I will do everything I can to push them even higher in the world of football.”