THE DAY REPLAYED - Monday's two quarter-final showdowns at Nigeria 2009 had a little bit of everything: goals, suspense, twists and turns and tears, lots of tears. In keeping with a knockout phase that has served up some spectacular entertainment for the fans flocking to the country's stadiums, Spain and Nigeria prevailed in two gripping encounters that confirmed their pre-eminence in the category and teed up an intriguing semi-final on Thursday.
Remarkably, the two sides are both unbeaten in their last 12 games in the competition, a run that stretches back to Finland 2003 and includes the final at Korea 2007, which the Africans won on penalties. Spain and Nigeria now have the opportunity to go for the title again after respectively edging out Uruguay and Korea Republic in a pair of absorbing quarter-finals.
In the day's first game the Uruguayans made light of a red card and a two-goal deficit to pull level late on and put Spain on the ropes in their showdown in Kaduna. And had they not been denied by the woodwork in the closing seconds of normal time and again at the start of extra-time, the South Americans could have been celebrating a famous win. As it turned out, however, the Spaniards held their nerve in the penalty shootout to record a desperately hard-fought triumph.
The Golden Eaglets did not need to go to quite such lengths to dispose of Asia's last remaining representatives, though that does not mean to say they had an easy time of it against highly motivated opponents. The Taeguk Warriors responded well to Ramon Azeez's early opener and pulled level in stunning style just before the break. And when they fell behind again to an Abdul Ajagun goal, they threw all their resources forward in a desperate attempt to level the game. Weathering the storm, however, the tournament hosts killed the game when Terry Envoh struck on the break five minutes from time.
Goal of the day
Heung Min Son 40' - Nigeria-Korea Republic
The Korea Republic midfielder surprised everyone when, from fully 30 yards out, he unleashed a fearsome strike that flew with unerring accuracy past helpless Nigeria keeper Dami Paul and into the top corner. Sadly for Heung, his unstoppable drive could not prevent the Asians from exiting the tournament.
Old Eagle still flying high
Taking his place among the many thousands of Nigeria fans at the U. J. Esuene Stadium was an 89-year-old gentleman by the name of Ekeng Henshaw. Though Henshaw might not be a household name across the world, he does hold a distinguished place in Nigerian football history, having been appointed the very first captain of the national side back in 1939.
Unlucky for some
Uruguayan defender Federico Sauterre will perhaps think twice about representing his country again in the No13 shirt and about having the unlucky digits shaved into his hair. Making his first appearance in the competition, the unfortunate Sauterre collected two yellow cards in giving away two penalties, leaving his side a man down after only half an hour. Goalkeeper Salvador Ichazo spared some of his blushes by keeping the second of the two spot-kicks out.
Practice does not make perfect
As Uruguay coach Roland Marcenaro told FIFA.com in a recent interview, La Celeste have been leaving nothing to chance at Nigeria 2009. "We've been practising penalties for the last two months," commented the tactician, who was aghast to see Jose Laureiro and Gabriel Mezquida miss from the spot against Spain; proof, if it were needed, that no amount of training can ever replicate the white-hot pressure of a shootout.
Borja racks them up
The scorer of a brace against the Uruguayans, the Spain striker momentarily pulled level with Sebastian Gallegos at the top of the scoring charts with four goals. The Charrua playmaker then moved back in front with a goal in his side's late revival. But with two games still to come in the competition and the leading marksman now packing his bags for home, the Spanish spearhead will feel confident of overhauling him to claim the adidas Golden Shoe.
20 - The number of years that have elapsed since the host nation last reached the semi-finals of the competition. 1989 organisers Scotland were the last team to achieve the feat and went on to finish runners-up behind Saudi Arabia.