Spain and Ghana book semis date
© Foto-net

THE DAY REPLAYED - Spain emerged triumphant on penalties to extinguish the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007 aspirations of 2001 champions France, before Ghana turned on the style to set-up a mouth-watering semi-final against the Iberians. Les Bleuets were in the ascendancy heading into the last 20 minutes of their clash in Jeju, but Juan Santisteban's side summoned an equaliser and then won 5-4 on spot-kicks.

For their part, the Black Starlets' fetching, attack-conscious football proved too much for Peru, whose impressive campaign was ended by a 2-0 defeat in Changwon. It also provided the locals in Ulsan - and the many watching the action live on (available in certain territories) - with a must-see fixture on Wednesday, when the energy and flair of the Africans will lock horns with the intricate, stylish football of Spain.

From the close to the comfortable
The statistics said it all: France registered 33 shots to Spain's 24, the Iberians had ten corners to their opponents' nine, and both sides had 50 percent possession apiece - today's quarter-final in Jeju was a very evenly contested affair. It was, therefore, no surprise that 120 minutes of action failed to determine who would become the first of two European representatives in the last four.

A single strike was all separated the rivals in the ensuing shootout, and it was Santisteban's charges whose Korea 2007 dream remained intact. Spaniards Pepe Reina and Andres Palop have earned widespread applause for their penalty-saving expertise in recent years, and their young compatriot David De Gea proved that he too has ability in this field, denying Thibaut Bourgeois from 12 yards to thrust his side to a 5-4 victory.

His denial of France's No10 was the icing on the cake for De Gea, whose impressive reflexes had kept Spain in the game. On a day when their title charge was just 18 minutes away from ending, though, the boys in the unfamiliar white shirts certainly had more than one hero.

Of the ten goals they had scored prior to the game, four had come from substitutes and Jordi improved this aggregate with a 72nd minute equaliser. Daniel Aquino, who had accompanied the Spanish scorer on to the field in the 57th minute, also made a decisive contribution, holding his nerve to dispatch the winning penalty.

If Ghana, at a numerical disadvantage, had been forced to eke out a win over tournament favourites Brazil, then they strode to victory over another South American adversary. Peru fought courageously until the end but, in truth, were overwhelmed by the exciting machine that is Sellas Tetteh's team.

As the rain fell in Changwon, so too did Ghanaian chances but, largely due to the goalkeeping of the excellent Eder Hermoza, they were made to wait until first half stoppage time to break the deadlock. Sadick Adams netted his first goal of the tournament against Trinidad and Tobago on the stroke on half-time, and he added his third of the campaign with the interval just seconds away today.

Adams is, nonetheless, behind his strike partner Ransford Osei on the goals chart, and it was the all-action No10 who put the game beyond Peru's reach within ten minutes of the restart, reacting first to steer home a rebound after the post had denied Issac Donkor a bicycle-kicked goal of the tournament contender. It was Osei's fifth of the competition, making him the joint-leading marksman alongside Nigeria's Macauley Chrisantus.

The Golden Eaglets sharpshooter will have the chance to improve his tally when he goes up against Argentina tomorrow, with a last four encounter with Germany or England at stake. One thing is for sure: on the evidence of today's showings, the winner of the second semi-final in Suwon will have their work cut out preventing Spanish or Ghanaian celebrations at the end of the final.