THE DAY REPLAYED – In a day drenched by the rain, Germany, England, France and Mexico kept their heads above water to emerge victorious from their round-of-16 encounters, and to progress to the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011.
The Germans delivered another impressive lesson in attacking football in Queretaro, dispensing with the United States by a resounding 4-0 margin. In doing so, they stretched their unbeaten record against the Americans in the final stages of FIFA men’s tournament to six games. The same stadium later had the pleasure of watching France’s sensational game with Côte d’Ivoire, during which Les Bleuets came back from two goals down to eventually win 3-2. France’s triumph leaves the event bereft of any African teams, and also sends home its leading scorer, Souleymane Coulibaly, who notched yet another goal in the game.
In Pachuca, meanwhile, England required penalty kicks to see off Argentina, who up to now had never lost by this method at the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Mexico did not have to dig quite as deep against Panama, beating their fellow CONCACAF representatives with two goals from corners, one coming at the beginning of the match and one at the end.
Goal of the day
Souleymane Coulibaly, 3’, France-Côte d’Ivoire
The move began down the left with Drissa Diarrassouba, who drove towards the byline and sent an inviting-looking cross into the area for Jean Kouassi. The Ivoirian forward struck the ball goalwards without any great pace, but France goalkeeper Lionnel Mpasi Nzau was unable to gather it immediately, providing the alert Coulibaly with the opportunity to poke the ball into the net for his ninth goal of the tournament. While it was far from spectacular and could not prevent his side from being eliminated, the strike saw the Siena player equal the record of France’s Florent Sinama-Pongolle, who registered the same number of goals at Trinidad and Tobago 2001.
Rain, rain, go away
All four of Thursday’s games were played in heavy rain, which had a considerable influence on their various outcomes. The England-Argentina clash was arguably the most affected, as Jordan Pickford’s failure to hold on to a greasy ball gifted La Albiceleste the lead early in the first half. At the other end, Three Lions front man Hallam Hope slipped in the act of shooting, thereby missing when it appeared easier to score. The elements also made life complicated for France, particularly in relation to Coulibaly’s opening goal, while ground staff at Pachuca had to work especially hard at half-time in the match between Mexico and Panama, redoing the lines that the weather had obscured in the first period. And while this may be stretching literary licence a little, it would not be unfair to suggest that the USA defence took on water against Germany.
England custodian Pickford may only be 17 years of age, but he has already learned that the margin separating hero from villain in football is extremely thin. Against Canada he had the dubious honour of conceding the first goal ever scored by a keeper in the final stages of a FIFA tournament, and he was also at fault for Argentina’s opener today. He was destined to have the last laugh, however, saving two Argentinian penalties to propel his side into the next round.
The goal scored by Mexico striker Carlos Fierro, which entered the net precisely one minute and 43 seconds into the match with Panama, has become the fastest goal of this year’s tournament. The second-fastest goal now belongs to the aforementioned Coulibaly, who got off the mark against France after just two minutes and 20 seconds. On a record-breaking day, England’s Raheem Sterling and Germany’s Korey Guenter became the youngest goalscorers for their respective countries at Mexico 2011. Sterling is 16 and 6 months, while his German counterpart is 16 and 10 months.
22 – The total number of times that FIFA U-17 World Cup matches have been decided by penalty kicks. The first such shoot-out took place at China 1985, when Australia progressed to the semi-finals of the tournament at the expense of Guinea. Nigeria have been involved most often in the nerve-wracking tiebreakers, winning two out of four.
Up next (quarter-finals)
Sunday 3 July 2011
Uruguay-Uzbekistan (Monterrey, 15.00)
Japan-Brazil (Queretaro, 18.00)
Monday 4 July 2011
Germany-England (Morelia, 15.00)
France-Mexico (Pachuca, 18.00)