THE DAY REPLAYED - Argentina, Nigeria, England and Germany were the favourites going into their Round of 16 matches against Costa Rica, Colombia, Syria and USA respectively, and true to the odds the heavyweight quartet sealed their progression into the quarter-finals.
Not that it was a stroll in the park for the day's successful sides. Colombia were 12 minutes away from ending Nigeria's assault on a third FIFA U-17 World Cup crown before a comeback was summoned, Germany needed to dig deep to see off USA and England overcame a stern examination from Syria to advance.
Incidentally, there was no place on the score-sheets for the leading marksmen for Argentina, Nigeria, England and Germany, but it did not put the brakes on their sides' glory bids. Defender Gaston Sauro emerged as the unlikely match-winner for the South Americans, his pair of headers earning them a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica and a meeting with Nigeria, for whom Yakubu Alfa's first goal of the tournament sunk Colombia.
Krystian Pearce and Rhys Murphy also netted their first goals on Korean soil to help England overcome Syria 3-1 and march into the last eight, where they will renew their long-standing footballing rivalry with Germany, who ran out 2-1 winners in a recent senior friendly against the Three Lions at Wembley. The hero of the day for Heiko Herrlich's U-17 charges was Richard Sukuta-Pasu, who claimed both goals to inspire a 2-1 reverse of USA. In the process, the sprightly attacker outranked a trio of his team-mates as his side's top scorer in the competition.
Gwangyang played host to an upset yesterday when Ghana eliminated record three-time winners Brazil, and another shock result was threatened at the Soccer Only Field today. Indeed, going into the last quarter-hour of their clash against Colombia, Nigeria trailed 1-0.
But although the Cafeteros successfully denied Korea 2007's five-goal leading marksman Macauley Chrisantus adding to his tally, they could not prevent the Golden Eaglets finding inspiration from elsewhere. Two minutes after his introduction and in only his 95th minute of action in the Far East, Sheriff Isa struck his third goal of the tournament to put the West Africans on level terms, before Alfa settled the outcome in their favour.
Germany's encounter with USA also finished 2-1 and included late drama. After Sukuta-Pasu had completed his double in the 89th minute to open up a two-goal cushion, USA defender Mykell Bates scored in injury time to bring his team to within a goal of forcing extra-time. But despite piling forward, German keeper Rene Vollath saved their last remaining attempt.
Bates' goal was his third of the campaign, an admirable return for a defender. His first was, of course, the 1,100th in FIFA U-17 World Cup history and today it was the turn of Henri Lansbury to celebrate an ensuing landmark. The England midfielder's deadlock-breaking penalty against Syria was the 1,200th goal since the youth tournament's inception.
His next major contribution was equally as significant. With
John Peacock's side 2-1 up and Syria pressing hard for an
equaliser, Lansbury robbed an opponent of possession, strode
upfield and fed his Arsenal team-mate Murphy, who made no mistake
with the finish to put the game out of the Asian newcomers'
All eyes will now turn to the quarter-finals, which will take place on Saturday and Sunday.