THE DAY REPLAYED - A Hollywood script-writer could not have come up with a better opening day for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009. Joy, pain, excitement, frustration and a carnival atmosphere were all experienced on Saturday 24 October in Abuja and Lagos.
As should be the case for a host nation, Nigeria grabbed all the headlines. Spurred on by their partisan following, the locals managed a 3-3 draw against European champions Germany. The hosts were 3-0 down at one point but drew level within the space of seven frantic minutes in what was a re-run of the 1985 Final. Saturday also saw the most goals scored on an opening day in the history of the FIFA U-17 world finals.
While Argentina made the most of that high-scoring draw to go top of Group A after their 1-0 win over Honduras, Group B also saw plenty of goals and a shock result. Switzerland celebrated their debut in the tournament by defeating title hopefuls Mexico 2-0, while in the other match, superstars Neymar and Coutinho propelled Brazil to a thrilling 3-2 win over Japan, who twice came from behind to level the score.
Click on the links in the right-hand column for full reports of the day's matches.
Goal of the day
Honduras - Argentina, Sergio Araujo (59')
For an hour in Abuja, it looked as though Honduras' rapid, counter-attacking style would prove to be too tough a nut to crack for Argentina. Then star Boca Juniors striker Araujo suddenly managed to free himself of the shackles that had been holding him back for the first 60 minutes. He managed to put an hour's worth of frustration behind him to calmly slot the ball home from the edge of the 18-yard box. Araujo also had to deal with the sudden rainstorm which drenched the pitch, yet still managed to conclude an incisive three-man attack.
An equaliser that released the tension of a whole nation
When substitute Edafe Egbedi made it 3-3 against Germany after 61 minutes, the entire stadium in Abuja was on its feet. There is enormous expectation on the shoulders of the talented young squad from the West African home nation, and they are under great pressure to perform. This result should give the Golden Eaglets wings...
Soaking up the atmosphere
Never before had Switzerland won a match at a FIFA World Cup for this age group, but all that changed on Saturday. The Europeans opened their U-17 account with three points against a highly fancied Mexican outfit and nobody was going to stop them enjoying the historic event. As soon as the final whistle went, the Swiss youngsters embarked on a lap of honour and celebrated every precious moment of their joy with the home fans in Lagos, who proved to be the perfect hosts and were happy to share the moment with the unheralded victors.
Just like watching Brazil...
Anyone who saw Brazil's second goal on Saturday must surely have harked back to the legendary Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Neymar's strike to make it 2-1 had all the hallmarks of a Pele classic. The young striker bore down on Jun Kamita, flicked the ball to the left, ran around the Japan goalkeeper to the right and tucked the ball away into the empty net.
2 - Switzerland's second goal on Saturday came courtesy of the Mexican keeper, but this should come as no surprise - the last two own-goals at a FIFA U-17 World Cup having been conceded by Mexico. Back in Peru in 2005, Efrain Suarez gave Costa Rica the lead with an own-goal in the quarter-finals only to equalise himself in the 88th minute. Mexico ended up on the right end of a 3-1 scoreline after extra time and went on to win the whole tournament! The rest of Group B would therefore do well not to count their chickens and write off Jose Luis Gonzales' men at this early stage...
Have Your Say
Based on their thriller of a 3-3 draw with the European champions, can the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria now spread their wings and fly even higher to take their second straight U-17 title? Click on 'add your comment' and let the world know.