It was a semi-final that had everything: 120 minutes of high-quality football, nailbiting tension right up to the final whistle, and joy and despondency in equal measure. And at the end of it all Spain had edged into their third FIFA U-17 World Cup Final. The beaming faces of Juan Santisteban's players said it all as they prepared to leave their hotel in Ulsan the morning after the night before. Next stop for the smiling Spaniards is Seoul and a crack at the world title in Sunday's Final.

After sliding his bags into the boot of the coach, the Spain boss gave his views about it all to "I'm delighted because of the performance of the team and the calibre of the opponents. Overall I think we played a great game. Ghana put in a terrific first half, but we came back strongly in the second and I think we were the better side in extra time."

"Not just that," he adds with a smile. "I've also been able to break my Ghana hoodoo. We'd played them four times before, and drawn twice and lost the two most important games; the final in Italy [1991] and the semi in Egypt [1997]." Santisteban's mood darkens, however, when the conversation turns to Bojan and his absence from the Final. "It was so sad to see him crying in the dressing room. Unfortunately, that's just the way it is and we need to look forward now. It's a huge loss for us, we all know that, but we'll just have to try and work round it."

"It's still far too early to start preparing for Sunday's game," adds the venerable tactician as his players continue to file out of the hotel lobby en route to the bus that will take them to the airport. "The boys are worn out. They've just gone to extra time twice in five days, and they're mentally exhausted too because of everything that goes with playing a semi-final. We'll need to get them freshened up first before we can turn our thoughts to the Final."

Plenty to ponder
It goes without saying that the Spanish squad will be following the duel between Nigeria and Germany very closely indeed. A quick glance at the record books shows that in their only game against the Golden Eaglets to date the Africans prevailed 2-1 in a group meeting at Ecuador 1995. "If we do come up against an African side again, it's quite likely we'll approach it in the same way as the Ghana game," reasons Santisteban. "It all depends on how the players are physically."

Spain have a much better record against the Germans, winning both of their two encounters to date: a 3-1 win in the Round of 16 at Italy 1991 and a 2-1 triumph in the match for third place at Egypt 1997. Not that the veteran coach will be underestimating them. "They've got one the best teams I've seen. As well as the physical attributes they're known for they've got some real flair players, and the results are there for all to see."

And before he sets off for Seoul and his 34th and perhaps final FIFA U-17 World Cup match, Santisteban signs off with reminder of the mission awaiting him in the capital. "We came here to reach the final, and now we're hoping to take the title."