THE DAY REPLAYED – There was a party atmosphere in Baku on Friday as the last two quarter-finals at the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup were marked by a birthday, a surprise and superb action all round. The birthday belonged to Germany coach Anouschka Bernhard, whose players ensured it was an occasion to remember with a late 2-1 defeat of Brazil that sets them up for a last-four meeting with Korea DPR.
As for the surprise, that was served up by Ghana, who booked their first ever spot in the semi-finals by upsetting one of the favourites, Japan. Sharifatu Sumaila's goal made the difference for the Black Maidens, who will now take on a France side fresh from two successive victories against African teams, having swept aside Gambia 10-2 in the group stage before edging Nigeria 5-3 on penalties at the end of a 0-0 draw last time out.
Goal of the day
Germany-Brazil 2-1, Rebecca Knaak 90+2
Sublime, opportunistic, important and decisive, the goal fired in by Germany's Rebecca Knaak late in added time against Brazil had so much to recommend it. Unmarked on the penalty spot, the No20 latched on to Sara Daebritz's corner from the right and, without controlling the ball, unleashed a left-footed volley that sped just inside Taina's right-hand post.
Icing on the cake
The prospect of facing Brazil no doubt brought back many fond memories for Anouschka Bernhard, who registered her only goal for Germany in a FIFA tournament against As Canarinhas at the 1995 FIFA Women’s World Cup Sweden™. Now coach of the women's U-17 side, she is unlikely to ever forget Friday's win against the South Americans either – and not least since it fell on her 42nd birthday. In terms of gifts, Bernhard could hardly have asked for more, Germany captain Daebritz regaling her with an impromptu rendition of 'Happy Birthday' after levelling the scores before Knaak provided the best present of all with an emotional last-gasp winner.
Lineker proved right
"Football is a simple game," former England striker Gary Lineker once said. "22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end the Germans win." The quote has become a much-loved classic down the years, and it was given a new twist at Baku's 8km Stadium on Friday as the game between Germany and Brazil appeared destined for extra time. The scoreboard read 1-1 in the second minute of added time, but the European hopefuls were not finished yet and claimed a dramatic victory when the unmarked Knaak met Daebritz's corner on the volley and buried it beyond Taina. It was the second time Germany have changed the course of a match in extremis at Azerbaijan 2012, Ricarda Kiessling having salvaged a draw with China PR in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
Ghana defy expectations...
…and Asia's finest
Asia's pedigree in the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup is second to none, Korea DPR and Korea Republic winning the first two editions and three of the four semi-finalists at Trinidad & Tobago 2010 hailing from the Far East. In fact, there have never been fewer than two Asian contenders in the last four – until now. Unbeaten in their three meetings with Asian opponents – drawing 1-1 with Korea DPR in 2008 and beating China PR 2-0 and Japan 1-0 this year – the Black Maidens have clearly decided that it is their turn to leave their mark. The North Koreans will now be Asia's sole representatives in the semi-finals, while Ghana have become the first African team in the tournament's history to advance one step away from the showpiece.
364 – The number of minutes Japan held out without conceding a goal and a new record for the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, surpassing the benchmark of 350 previously set by Korea DPR. That will come as little consolation to the Little Nadeshiko as they bid a premature farewell to Azerbaijan 2012, particularly as their record could already be about to fall – to Ghana, who have now gone 341 minutes without being breached.
"We conceded because of a mistake and we were not able to score ourselves. I am very sad and sorry that we lost at this stage. I hope my players learned a lot at this tournament and I hope that they will step up to the next level, the U-20 in two years." Hiroshi Yoshida, Japan coach