Spain join three South Americans in the last four
THE DAY REPLAYED - Colombia v Brazil and Argentina v Spain are the two semi-final match-ups at the FIFA U-17 World Championship Finland 2003. Argentina and Colombia won through on Saturday 23 August, while on Sunday Brazil walked over the USA in Turku (3-0) and Spain beat eternal rivals Portugal (5-2) in the most hotly disputed game of the weekend.
THE DAY REPLAYED: SATURDAY
The many American flags brandished around Turku stadium by the fans and players’ friends failed to have the desired effect as Brazil showed just why they are many pundits’ tournament favourites. A first-half Leonardo goal (18’) invited team USA to come forward, only for their hopes to be dashed in the space of three short minutes in the second period, as further strikes from Ederson (61’) and Evandro (64’ – 100th goal of the tournament) ended North American dreams.
“Brazil are a wonderful team,” American coach John Ellinger said after the match. Speaking about Freddy Adu, he had the following praise for his star player: “Adu drew a lot of attention from the media and the defenders. He still has a lot of lessons to learn but has a bright future ahead.”
The prodigious youngster was again at the heart of every attacking move his side made, and took a few knocks in the second half as he tried to use his pace to force his way through to goal. Brazil never looked in serious danger though, and their impressive stats (12 goals scored and one conceded) are not dissimilar to those of fellow-favourites Argentina.
We showed our technical ability today and the team has got better with each game,” said coach Paqueta. “Now we meet Colombia who are a very good side and who beat us in the qualifiers.” For the first time in the history of the competition, South America has all three ambassadors in the semis while the three sides from Central American and North America are on their way home.
Brazil turn on the style to knock out the States
Spain claimed the last vacant semi-final spot by ousting Portugal (5-2) at Ratina stadium in Tampere, thereby gaining revenge for defeat in the final of the UEFA European U-17 Championship earlier this year.
Portugal opened the scoring early on via Manuel Curto, who in the process became top scorer at Finland 2003 (5 goals). The Lusitanians then rounded off their northern European escapade with a sumptuous free-kick from wonderkid Vieira in the dying minutes - only his second goal of the tournament but another masterpiece. The only problem was that in the intervening period their defence had leaked another four goals, and a total of 18 conceded throughout the tournament.
Juan Santisteban’s well-organised, determined Spanish side shrugged off the disappointment of going one down and soon had the Portuguese back line in trouble again. The unmanageable Sisi began calling the shots and it was he who won the free-kick that led to the Spanish equaliser (28’) before crossing for the second (42’). The Valencia player earned a well-deserved ovation at the end of the match and was subsequently unafraid to talk up his side’s chances in the semis: “Argentina are one of the strongest sides in the competition but we can still beat them.”
The other hero of the hour for the Spanish was Xisco. The Villarreal striker hit his side’s third on 50 minutes and then ran the Portuguese ragged down their right flank before serving up Cesc (78’) for the fourth. Spain’s fifth came from a penalty in injury time.
We were by far the stronger side,” said Santisteban after the game. We played as a team and my players did what I am always telling them to do: they had fun.” Whether they have quite so much fun against Argentina on the artificial turf of Töölö stadium in Helsinki on 27 August remains to be seen, but in any case these cock-a-hoop Spaniards will provide the South Americans with their first real challenge.
Five-star Spain sink Iberian rivals Portugal