THE DAY REPLAYED - You have to go back 20 years to find out when the last match at a FIFA finals event was postponed. That came at the FIFA U-16 World Championship in Canada when the match between France and Australia was called off due to torrential rain. Twenty years later, history almost repeated itself. Referee Matthew Breeze was forced to make a pitch inspection several hours before Peru's match with Tajikistan before passing the sodden surface fit to play. Yet all four games were affected by the elements, from Spain's cascade of goals against Korea DPR to Ghana's narrow victory over pre-tournament favourites Brazil.
But on a day dominated by the rain, it was two No9s who shone brightest. Damien Le Tallec and Spain's Bojan scored two goals apiece to help send their side to the quarter-finals of the competition. Each of the four goals were strikes of the highest quality, with Bojan, who celebrated his 17th birthday yesterday, the Round of 16's opening scorer. He turned his marker on the edge of the box before unleashing an unstoppable shot which cannoned in off the post. Five minutes after the interval, the Barcelona starlet grabbed his second, firing home from the corner of the box to double his team's advantage. Iago then became the third substitute in this competition to score within a minute of his entrance to ensure that there was no way back for the brave Koreans.
Le Tallec, on the other hand, left it late for France, but his goals were just as valuable as they overcame Tunisia in Changwon. The Rennes striker netted two goals in the opening period of extra time to send his side through. Henri Saivet's free-kick had given Les Bleuettes the lead, but it was cancelled out by Nour Hadhria within four minutes of the restart. Despite being reduced to ten men following Mohamed Karoui's dismissal, Tunisia, who had enjoyed a 100 per cent record in the group stages, took the tie to extra time, but this was the signal for the Rennes striker to come into his own. First Le Tallec twisted and turned his way through the Tunisian defence before hitting the ball into the top right corner of the net before adding a sublime second six minutes later to set up a tie between the two European nations in Jeju on Saturday.
Group B for 'Bye', Hermoza the hero
How Brazil would have wished for a Bojan or Le Tallec in their ranks tonight. Their No9, Maicon, who suffered a broken leg following a challenge with England's Henri Lansbury, was sitting in the stands in Gwangyang. The samba starlets suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Ghana through Issac Donkor's second half strike. What made the result all the more remarkable was that the samba starlets enjoyed a one-man advantage following Francis Boadi's dismissal, but despite Felipe, Fabio and Junior all going close, they found Ghana goalkeeper Joseph Addo in inspired form. Brazil became the day's second side from Group B, following Korea DPR, to be knocked out of the tournament. England will be hoping that they can buck the trend against Syria tomorrow.
The day also brought the tournament's first penalty shoot-out with Peru and Tajikistan the participants. On offer was a place in the last eight and a quarter-final clash with Ghana in Changwon. It turned out to be a villain of the opening 120 minutes to emerge as the game's hero. Step forward Eder Hermoza. Peru's No1 had allowed Nuriddin Davronov's 15th minute strike to slip through his hands, just two minutes after Reimond Manco had given his side the lead. Yet all was forgotten when stopped Tajik captain Farkhod Vasiev's powerfully struck penalty, the Asian's first of the night.
True enough, Luis Trujillo, Manuel Calderon, Cesar Ruiz, Manco and Irven Avila all deserve congratulations for successfully converting, but it was Hermoza who was the difference between the two sides. Tajikistan's players, who saw all but one of their penalties hit the back of the net, deserve to receive commiserations for their cruel exit, but their team will bounce back, possibly at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt in two years time.