THE DAY REPLAYED – Uzbekistan were the talk of the tournament on the eighth day of competition at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011, following a surprise 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic that propelled them to the round of 16 as winners of Group D, and eliminated the losing side in the process. In the same section, USA and New Zealand also advanced to the knockout stage, despite playing out a 0-0 draw in Pachuca.
Conversely, the same result – the first blank scoreline in the competition since 2009 – in the Group C encounter between Canada and Rwanda signified the end of the road for both teams. The draw was good news for Argentina, however, who are now assured of qualifying as one of the best third-placed sides. Their opponents in the next round will be England, who secured top spot in the group by seeing off Uruguay 2-0.
Goal of the day
Timur Khakimov, 44’, Czech Republic-Uzbekistan
Losing 1-0 and heading out of the tournament, the Uzbeks had begun to step up the pressure on the Czech defence. Azizbek Muratov’s low pass-cum-shot arrived at the feet of team-mate Khakimov, who was lurking inside the area. The sprightly centre-forward controlled the ball instantly and dispatched it decisively into the back of the net past Czech goalkeeper Lukas Zima. The goal would provide Uzbekistan with the platform to win the match, a result that sent them into the knockout phase of a FIFA competition for the first time.
In football it is often said that all runs must come to an end at some time. Unfortunately for Uruguay, they have not reached that point yet. The South Americans’ match with England confirmed two statistics that they would prefer to forget: in eight FIFA U-17 World Cup matches where they have conceded the first goal, they have never managed a win, and in six encounters with European opposition, the Uruguayans have still to taste victory. To continue advancing in the tournament, it is likely that they will need to find a way of bringing this negative series of results to a close.
New world order
In winning Group D, Uzbekistan became the second Asian team after Japan to achieve such a feat at this year’s event. This accomplishment may not have attracted much attention, but it remains a rarity, and has not happened since the first-ever tournament in China in 1985, when the host nation and Saudi Arabia topped their respective pools.
It was not a vintage performance from the United States in their game against New Zealand, but they nevertheless obtained the point they needed to qualify for the last 16. In doing so, the Americans – the only team to have played at every U-17 World Cup – have now made the knockout stage in 50 per cent of the tournaments they have participated in, with seven qualifications out of 14 events. Their best performance at this level came at New Zealand 1999, when they finished fourth.
New national holiday
Although they did not set foot on the pitch, Argentina were heavily involved in the action today. The reason for this was simple: the draw between Canada and Rwanda, combined with results elsewhere, had the indirect consequence of sending La Albiceleste through to the next round as one of the best third-placed teams. The date, 25 June, is one that has smiled on Argentinian football in the past. It was on this day 33 years ago that they were crowned world champions in 1978, and eight years later they defeated Belgium in the semi-final of the 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico™ on the same date, thereby advancing to the Final.
45 – The number of games that have been played in the tournament since the last 0-0 draw. Before today’s scoreless stalemate between Canada and Rwanda, the last time two teams had produced the same result was at Nigeria 2009, when Italy and Uruguay met in the group stage. Curiously, the match between USA and New Zealand, which took place shortly after the Canada-Rwanda fixture, ended in exactly the same scoreline.
26 June 2011
Panama-Germany (Queretaro, 15.00)
Burkina Faso-Ecuador (Guadalajara, 15.00)
Australia-Denmark (Queretaro, 18.00)
Côte d’Ivoire-Brazil (Guadalajara, 18.00)