When the draw was made, all the experts agreed that Group F
would have top-class matches and suspense right to the very end
between three of the favourites - Germany, Ghana and Colombia - and
a potential surprise package in Trinidad and Tobago. In the end,
the group was even more exciting than anticipated, with all of the
matches providing the fans with veritable feasts of attacking
football, dramatic comebacks and spectacular goals.
The final standings
1. Germany, 7 points
2. Ghana, 6 points
3. Colombia, 4 points
4. Trinidad and Tobago, 0 points
Ghana - Brazil, 29 August, Gwangyang, 20:00 (local time)
Nigeria - Colombia, 30 August, Gwangyang, 17:00 (local time)
Germany - USA, 30 August, Cheonan, 20:00 (local time)
The tale of the teams
Germany:This was the first time in eight years that Germany had qualified for a FIFA U-17 World Cup, and Heiko Herrlich's men certainly came to Korea with lofty ambitions. They showed their talent right from the off in the opening match against Colombia, racing into a 3-1 lead over the highly fancied South Americans but eventually having to settle for a point after a titanic struggle. The second match also saw the Germans showcase their attacking abilities, taking a 3-0 lead over Ghana and eventually clinging on for a 3-2 win. Trinidad and Tobago were then brushed aside 5-0 to send Germany through to the next round as group winners and establish their credentials as one of the title favourites for Korea 2007.
Ghana: The Africans have always been among the strongest countries in the U-17 age group and 2007 has proved to be no exception. The Black Starlets hit the ground running, opening the tournament with a 4-1 win over Trinidad and Tobago. Coach Sellas Tetteh Teivi's youngsters then found themselves 3-0 down against Germany before reducing the deficit and almost snatching a point at the end. This defeat meant that Ghana's last match against Colombia was virtually a winner-takes-all affair, but the Africans handled the pressure admirably, played their own inimitable brand of football and secured a 2-1 win, giving them second place in the group and a spot in the last 16.
Colombia: After finishing an impressive second in South American qualifying, the young Cafeteros were seen by many as an outside tip to go all the way at Korea 2007 and to a certain extent, they have met these expectations. Their Group F opener against Germany saw them fall behind 3-1 only to throw everything into attack and snatch a well deserved draw. Trinidad and Tobago were their next opponents, and this time the Colombians made no mistake, giving free rein to their forwards and brushing aside their near-neighbours 5-0. In their final group match, Colombia served up 90 minutes of excellent football against Ghana, and although they slipped to a 2-1 defeat, Eduardo Lara's men made it through to the Round of 16 as one of the four best third-placed teams.
Trinidad and Tobago: The young Soca Warriors were the rank outsiders in Group F, but right from the off, they proved that they had earned the right to play with the big boys. Anton Corneal's men gave a good account of themselves against Ghana and could hold their heads up high despite a 4-1 defeat. Against Colombia and Germany, however, they suffered consecutive 5-0 thrashings, but they nevertheless impressed neutral fans with their open style of play and occasional flashes of brilliance.
Moments to savour
• Germany opened the tournament with a three-goal haul against Colombia and then repeated the feat against Ghana. With attacking midfielder Toni Kroos pulling the strings, the Germans raced into a 3-0 lead over the Africans within half an hour and created any number of further chances. The highlight of the match came from Kroos, who put the icing on the cake of an outstanding performance by scoring a free kick which will live long in the memories of the fans lucky enough to witness it at the Cheonan Sports Complex.
• The match between Germany and Ghana also had a number of other memorable moments. The Africans found themselves with a three-goal deficit at half-time, but they emerged from the break a changed team. Within eight minutes, they had pulled two goals back, and they continued to lay siege to the German goal with chances a-plenty. The equaliser refused to come, but it was not for want of trying.
• Colombia found themselves 3-1 down against Germany at half-time in their opening group match, but like Ghana, they turned things around after the break. Cristian Nazarith halved the deficit from the penalty spot after a foul in the box before equalising with an incredible long-range strike into the top corner - a goal which would have graced any match but which was particularly fitting for a tie as exciting as this one.
• Midfielder Stephan Campbell provided the highlight of Trinidad and Tobago's stay in Korea, scoring his country's only goal of the tournament against Ghana - and what a goal it was. From a good 35 yards, Campbell sent a bullet of a free kick right into the corner, to the delight of the fans in Cheonan.
• It was not just standard of play which will be remembered in Group F. The fans made sure that the six matches will go down in the annals, with Ghana and Trinidad's supporters providing noisy and colourful entertainment as they cheered their teams on. Back on the pitch, the Black Starlets also added to the spectacle with their outlandish goal celebrations.
The numbers game
Group F was the group of goals. The six games saw a total of 29 goals - almost five a match on average. Only at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 1997 in Egypt have there been more goals (32) in one group. Ghana's Ransford Osei (four) and Columbia's Cristian Nazarith (three) are among the top five goalscorers of the tournament so far.
The closing remarks
"I really have to congratulate my team. Making it into the last 16 was the minimum we wanted to achieve, and by winning the group, we've put ourselves in an ideal position now. Each one of our players contributed to what we've done here. We qualified out of a strong group - the fact that Colombia and Ghana also made it through to the next round illustrates this. From here on in, anything is possible. Of course we want to win every remaining match, and we've going to do all we can to go as far as possible," Heiko Herrlich, Germany coach.