THE DAY REPLAYED - Goals rained down today as an octet of teams
completed an enthralling opening set of games at the FIFA World Cup
Korea 2007. During a matchday rich on flair, spectacular goals and
late drama, African hopefuls Tunisia and Ghana posted impressive
victories while Colombia and Germany shared six goals in Cheonan.
The story of the day, though, was David's stunning upset of Goliath in Changwon. When USA's Mykell Bates netted the 1,100th in the competition's 22-year existence to open the scoring against Tajikistan, few could have predicted anything other than victory for the FIFA U-17 World Cup's solitary ever-presents. However, the Asian newcomers failed to read the script and in the 86th minute of a captivating, end-to-end contest, Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev's sealed a heroic 4-3 triumph.
From the moment Oussama Boughanmi's superb strike put Tunisia in the ascendency against Belgium, it was obvious that the North Africans were a team to be reckoned with. Khaled Ayari doubled their lead on 24 minutes, and although they allowed the Europeans to draw level, Maher Kanzari's charges overcame a numerical disadvantage - a consequence of Oussama Boughanmi's 52nd minute dismissal - to clinch a 4-2 win.
Next up for Tunisia is an encounter with USA, who are sure to have their hands full trying to contain Youssef Msakni, whose brace saw off the Belgian challenge. He was not the only gifted playmaker to shine at the Changwon Main Stadium. In their No10 Eden Hazard, the Diablotins have a player with the tools to unlock the meanest of defences.
For their part, Ghana overcame Trinidad and Tobago 4-1 to underline their title credentials. Two-goal Randford Osei led the way for the Black Starlets, whose explosive attacking delighted their audience.
Trinidad and Tobago will not be too disheartened by defeat at
the hands of formidable opponents, Stephen Knox's assured
performance and Stephan Campbell's late consolation serving as
hope that they can still achieve a first-ever win in the FIFA U-17
Stars in the making
It is safe to say that Colombian and German football fans will have been excited for the future after seeing their U-17 sides play out an exhilarating 3-3 draw at the Cheonan Sports Complex. On today's showing, a number of their youngsters appear destined to reach the senior national team over the coming years. Cristian Nazarith, whose 87th minute thunderbolt, his second goal of the game, snatched the South Americans a point, certainly slips into this bracket, and a selection of German players augmented their burgeoning repuations.
Dennis Dowidat delivered an early goal of the tournament contender to cancel out Miguel Julio's opener for Colombia, and the skilful forward added another in the 49th minute to give Heiko Herrlich's side a 3-1 advantage. In between, the pacey Richard Sukuta-Pasu had got off the mark, while it was evident to see why Toni Kroos is one of the most talked-about teenagers on planet football.
When USA took the lead against Tajikistan with just nine minutes on the clock, their fans must have placed one eye on bettering Brazil's 7-0 reverse of New Zealand. It was, after all, a mismatch in terms of experience and reputation. However, goals from Farkhod Vasiev and Samad Shohzukhurov sent the Tajiks in 2-1 up at the break.
John Hackworth's team emerged from the interval in buooyant mood, and their eye-catching, pass-and-move football contributed to them quickly regaining the advantage. But the stage was set for an upset, and superb long-range goals from Nuriddin Davronov and Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev inside the last eight minutes sparked scenes of wild celebration among the Tajiks.