THE DAY REPLAYED - The FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009 continued to serve up some spectacular entertainment on Thursday as the identity of the two finalists was revealed.
Unfancied Switzerland have made quite an impression on their tournament debut, and matched the high standards they have so far set for themselves by seeing off Colombia in style to reach the final. After a gruelling extra-time win over Germany in the last 16 and a narrow victory over Italy in the quarters, the Swiss were grateful for an easier day at the office, with Santiago Arias's early dismissal aiding their cause. Organised at the back and lethal up front, the European revelations racked up four goals against the back-pedalling Cafeteros and showed no signs of letting the occasion get to them.
If Nigeria's performance in the day's second semi-final is anything to go by, however, the Swiss will almost certainly need to be at their best in Sunday's final at the National Stadium in Abuja. The three-time winners, defending champions and tournament hosts shattered Spain's dream of collecting a maiden FIFA U-17 World Cup title with a rampaging display. Beaten on penalties in the final two years ago, La Rojita will now have to wait for another two years before they attempt to break their duck again.
Goal of the day
Haris Seferovic 36' - Colombia-Switzerland
Receiving a well-placed pass from one of the Switzerland central defenders, Nassim Ben Khalifa backheeled the ball to Seferovic. The Grasshopper Zurich duo then showed the extent of their understanding, as Seferovic laid the ball back to his team-mate, who took a touch before delivering an inch-perfect through-ball that the Swiss No9 struck first time from the edge of the box, just inside Cristian Bonilla's right-hand post.
Say it with words
The Teslim Balogun Stadium said its goodbyes to the tournament with a host of home-made banners adorning the stands. "Thank you FIFA. Let's do it again soon," said one, and there was also plenty of encouragement for the local heroes with numerous signs reading, "Eaglets champions." The banner of the evening, however, contained a grim warning for the luckless Spanish: "Torres, Xavi and Iniesta – even you could not prevent an Eaglets victory."
The inevitable Mr. Emmanuel
Nigerian supersub Sani Emmanuel thrust himself into contention for the adidas Golden Shoe by coming off the bench to kill off Spain's hopes with a well-taken brace. The talismanic striker, who plays his club football for My People, is now level on five goals with fellow top scorers Spain's Borja and Uruguay's Sebastian Gallegos. And given his pace, instinctive positioning and nose for goal, there is every reason to suggest the irrepressible replacement will add to that tally in the final.
Red spells danger for Colombia
Colombia's bid to topple Switzerland in their semi-final came unstuck when two defensive errors gifted the Swiss the lead after only 13 minutes. Jeison Murillo's untimely slip allowed Ben Khalifa in for a shot on goal, which keeper Bonilla parried. Seizing on the loose ball, the Swiss striker tried his luck again, only for Arias to beat the ball away with his hands. A red card ensued for the tearful defender, along with a penalty for the Swiss, which Ben Khalifa gratefully dispatched.
Spain's shaky defensive performance against Nigeria will not have pleased two of the team's supporters in Lagos: assistant coach Aitor Karanka and former Spain captain Fernando Hierro, who made the long trip to the Nigerian capital to cheer on his young compatriots. Together the pair formed a formidable partnership at the heart of the Real Madrid defence in the 1990s and will surely have some advice to give to the members of the Spanish rearguard after a trying evening.
85 - The number of years since Switzerland last contested the final of a FIFA competition. That appearance, their only one to date, came at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Paris 1924, when the Swiss went down 3-0 to Uruguay. Can Dany Ryser's boys fare better than their predecessors and beat the Nigerians on Sunday?