First-timers Switzerland booked their place in the semi-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009 with an eventful 2-1 win over the Italians in Ijebu-Ode. Despite going a man down in the second half, the Swiss were the better side on the day and will now take on Colombia - who beat Turkey in their quarter-final in Bauchi - in the final four.
The Italians began the match looking dangerous, with some fine wing play resulting in sharp crosses that the strikers just could not quite steer into the net. It took the Swiss 15 minutes to carve out their first chance of the opening period, Nassim Ben Khalifa hammering a long-range shot just over the bar. Five minutes later they signalled their intent once again when Roman Buess fired into Mattia Perin's mid-section, but the Italian goalkeeper smothered the try at the second attempt.
The Swiss were very much in the ascendancy, and in the 24th minute they were rewarded for their incisive attacking play. A fine run and cross from the left side by Ricardo Rodriguez was expertly volleyed home by Ben Khalifa, for his third goal of the finals. Italian keeper Perin got a hand to the effort, but he could not keep it from bouncing in off the post.
The Italians' response came in the 32nd minute when Federico Carraro's elegant free-kick curled up and over the Swiss wall and dipped into the lower corner of the net to level the scores at 1-1. Ben Khalifa had a glorious chance to put the Swiss back in front with two minutes to go in the half, but the usually clinical striker somehow conspired to push his point-blank shot wide of the target.
Italy came out flying after the interval and, just two minutes in, Swiss defender Ricardo Rodriguez needed to be sharp to clear an effort from Giacomo Beretta off the line. Marco Fossati, just seconds later, forced Benjamin Siegrist into a fine save with a wicked snap-shot from 20 yards. The match began to develop an end-to-end feel and good chances were coming on both sides of the pitch. Ben Khalifa continued to look dangerous for the Swiss, rounding the goalkeeper and nearly scoring in the 56th minute, while Fossati and Carraro were the danger-men for the Italians.
The Swiss took the lead in the 61st minute when Oliver Buff hit home from the edge of the box after a corner-kick from the right, and the Italians had a golden opportunity to equalise straight from the re-start. Captain Frederic Veseli took down Beretta in the box and the referee pointed to the spot and brandished a red card for the Swiss defender. Unfortunately for the Italians, though, Fossati's tame effort from the spot was gratefully gobbled up by the diving Siegrist.
The air went out of the Italians after that and despite their man advantage they could not find their way back into the match. The Swiss - who had a late chance to add to their lead through Ben Khalifa - now move on to the semi-final stage, where they will take on Colombia. Italy, on the other hand, will be heading for home as their FIFA U-17 World Cup finals have come to an end.