Hosts Nigeria moved a step closer to their second-straight FIFA U-17 World Cup title, beating Korea Republic 3-1 in their quarter-final to set up a mouth-watering last-four contest with European powers Spain. The last match of these finals from the U.J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar was played amid a party atmosphere as the home side put on a show of edging the talented Asians.
The Nigerians came out flying from the start, roared on by a lively packed house of adoring local fans. Abdul Ajagun had them out of their seats after only two minutes, too, but his shot from a tough angle could only shave the outside of the back post. Omoh Ojabu had the ball in the net after ten minutes, when he chased down a long ball from midfield, but referee Howard Webb called the try back for offside.
The Nigerians continued to charge, looking incisive with their passing and controlling virtually all of the possession. Ramon Azeez had a sizzling long-distance shot cleared by the head of a brave Korean defender in the 27th minute, but far from ruing his bad luck, the Future Pro Academy starlet got on the end of the resulting corner and slammed an arrow of a shot into Kim Jin Young's top corner to send the crowd into hysterics.
The irresistible hosts continued their charge as the half wore on. The fans responded with singing and dancing in the stands, but their enthusiasm could do nothing to keep out Son Heung Min's stunning equaliser from 25 yards on the stroke of halftime. It was the Asians' first legitimate attempt of the opening period and was followed by a deathly silence in the ground.
The band struck up again after the interval, though, and Ajagun had them jumping for joy when his sizzling shot from 30 yards flew into the lower corner of the net to make it 2-1 in the 50th minute.
The hosts continued to charge, with Ojabu looking particularly dangerous in advanced positions. The Koreans, for their part, were having a difficult time putting together their trademark short-passing game, and in the 67th minute supersub Sani Emmanuel nearly added to the hosts' lead after a tremendous counterattack. Only a diving effort from the Korean keeper kept the ball out of the net. Terry Envoh managed to seal the deal five minutes from time, getting on the end of a looping cross from the right and delicately stroking inside the post to make it 3-1. His somersaulting celebration gave the fans one last thrill.
The Nigerians now face a semi-final date in Lagos against Spain, who needed penalties to beat a determined Uruguay in the day's early quarter-final from Kaduna.