Colombia in, Argentina run riot
THE DAY REPLAYED - The first day of Finland 2003 quarter-final action saw the South Americans thoroughly outclass their neighbours from the North. The outstanding Jose Otalvaro scored two in Töölö as Colombia blanked Costa Rica 2-0. Later in the day, Argentina were in frightening form as they continued their hunt for a first FIFA U-17 World Championship title – hammering Mexico by the same score. Colombia will now take on the winner of Brazil - USA, while the Argentines can look ahead to a meeting with the winner of the all-Iberian duel between Portugal and Spain in Tampere.
The first of Finland 2003’s do-or-die quarter-finals proved a rather forgettable affair as Colombia stingily controlled possession and crushed the spirit of the suddenly uninspired Costa Ricans in Helsinki.
Colombia cruise into last four
But aside from the Finnish flag they waved aloft before the match to garner the sympathies of the home crowd – still in mourning over the loss of their Vintiöt - the Costa Ricans did not bring much with them from their home base of Turku. The squad renowned for guts and last-gasp heroics looked flat and meek throughout a dour first half of football. Conceding possession to the South Americans in the first of the day’s two CONMEBOL – CONCACAF face offs, the Ticos looked punch drunk even before Otalvaro turned brilliantly at the edge of the box to fire his left-footed blast past unimpressive keeper Daniel Cambronero in minute 25. p>The midfielder then put the match beyond doubt with a curling right-footer just before the half. “I told them at halftime that they must play like men,” said deflated Costa Rica boss Manuel Urena after the match. “But we simply gave away too much possession. We could not even think about attacking, because first we had to win the ball…”After qualifying with an exciting bang, and introducing a fine talent in the form of diminutive midfielder Josimar Arias, the Ticos sadly went out with a whimper as they could muster nothing of consequence in a dismal second half on the rain-slicked artificial turf.The Cafeteros will now take on either the United States or familiar Brazil in the semi-final in Tampere – their first match off Töölö’s artificial turf.“We would prefer to play the States,” said goal hero Otalvaro. “But if it is Brazil, we will welcome it.”
Argentina on a roll
The day’s second battle between the Americas saw a case of pure class and complete dominance as Argentina - inspired by the traditional rhythms and colourful confetti emanating from the crowd - ran rampant to manhandle Mexico on a dull, grey day in Lahti. With four wins, and yet to concede a goal, the Albiceleste must now be considered the finals favourites as they continue the hunt for what surprisingly would be their first FIFA U-17 World Championship crown.
Argentina put Mexico to the sword
The North Americans, playing their first match of the finals on natural grass, were on the back foot early and often. With captain and midfield creator Lucas Biglia back from injury, the Argentines looked even more confident than in their magnificent run through Group B.
Neri Cardozo got the first for the Argentines. Racing forward with blinding speed on a ferocious counterattack, he laid the ball off for Hernan Peirone. And after continuing his run, the brilliant Boca Juniors man latched onto an inch-perfect cross to nod the ball gently inside the far post for a wonderful first.
Peirone and Cardozo combined again - swapping roles only eleven minutes later. Collecting an incisive diagonal ball from Cardozo, Peirone raced into the box with blinding pace and fired low, hard and with smashing accuracy past the despairing Jose Alamo to assure the Argentines of a spot in the semi-finals.
With argentine-born coach Humberto Grondona off the bench and shouting desperate orders to his young Mexican team late in the game, defender Luis Robles fired a shot from forty yards in wounded, rueful retaliation. The rattling crossbar and collective gasp from the crowd signalled the end of proud Mexico’s fight.
While Argentina dream of glory, the Tricolores now have only a long flight across the Atlantic ahead of them.
The Argentine team took their chances and that was the big difference,” said Grondona after the match. “They defend well, take their chances…and can go all the way.”
Argentine boss Hugo Tocalli sees the win as just another step in the team’s run to the final.“The first step was to win our group, then to reach the last four,” he said. “Now we want to win the six matches necessary to become world champions.”