Goodbyes bade as 16 celebrate
© Foto-net

THE DAY REPLAYED - Ghana strode through to the Round of 16 courtesy of a deserved 2-1 victory over the already-qualified Colombia, while USA and Tajikistan crept over the line as a captivating first phase reached a fitting conclusion. The CONCACAF force scored twice in the last 30 minutes to beat Belgium 2-0 and move on to three points, which proved enough for them to edge the Diablotins and Tajikistan for the runners-up spot in Group E by virtue of goals scored.

And although Tajikistani hearts were in their mouths when they fell behind in the 83rd minute to Tunisia, who became only the second side to progress with maximum points, they did just enough to stay alive in the tournament. By snatching the last of four best third-placed tickets to the knockout phase, Pulod Kodirov's side denied fellow Asians Japan a place in the last 16 due to a marginally superior goal difference.

Along with Japan, Belgium and Korea Republic, whose slim hopes of snatching the final best third-placed team berth were extinguished, the FIFA U-17 World Cup also waved goodbye to a courageous Trinidad and Tobago team, who went down 5-0 to Germany. Gone they may be, but the quartet will not be forgotten as supporters enjoy their exciting contributions - and the handsome skills of the likes of Yoichiro Kakitani, Eden Hazard, Choi Jin Soo and Stephen Knox - on highlights of all 36 matches.

For the remaining outfits, focus will now switch to the Round of 16, where a series of mouth-watering duels will take place. Gwangyang will stage the pick of these games on Wednesday, when record three-time champions Brazil will go head-to-head against two-time winners Ghana. Also on the calendar as the knockout rounds commence are matches between Tunisia and France, Spain and Korea DPR, and Peru and Tajikistan, while one day later Argentina will tackle Costa Rica, Germany will confront USA, England and Syria will go toe-to-toe and Nigeria will face Colombia.

If spectacular free-kicks wooed spectators in days previous, it is stunning volleys which caught the eye on matchday nine. Youssef Msakni's rocket into the roof of the Tajikistani net got the ball rolling, and moved the Tunisian marksman on to three goals. Ahead of him on the scoring chart sit Nigeria's five-goal striker Macauley Chrisantus and Ghana's Ransford Osei, who stylishly volleyed home his fourth goal of the tournament from another Abeiku Quansah assist.

There was, nonetheless, still room on the menu for a superb free-kick, and Germany's Kevin Wolze was the player who obliged. Three minutes into injury time against Trinidad and Tobago, the No6 rippled the back of Jesse Fullerton's net with a delightful strike.

It was the last of 29 goals in six matches in Group F, which is surpassed only by the 32 posted in Group B of the 1997 edition. While Spain's 13-0 defeat of New Zealand contributed heavily to this statistic a decade ago in Egypt, the Korea 2007 spread between Germany, Ghana, Colombia and Trinidad and Tobago was more even, with only one contest yielding less than five goals.

With eight last 16 matches to look forward to, fans will be hoping for more of the same.