Spanish snatch podium place
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Spain snatched third place at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009 with a 1-0 win over Colombia in Abuja. The undercard to the grand final between the host Nigerians and debutant Swiss was a game of two halves, with a desultory first period followed up by a scintillating second. In the end Isco’s second-half strike sealed a place on the podium for the Spaniards at the National Stadium.

An early snap-shot from the supremely talented Isco after only three minutes was the best chance of a lifeless and lacklustre opening period, and it hardly even troubled stand-in Colombia goalkeeper Juan Chaverra. Both sides featured several changes to the usual starting eleven and appeared demoralised and lacking energy, which is so often the case in these third-place consolation contests.

The Spaniards created the better of the attacking play, but there was hardly anything more than a half-chance in the entirety of the opening period. The Colombians, usually so dangerous up the wings with their speedy flank players, were virtually unable to break through into the Spanish defensive third. Borja’s late chance for the Europeans seemed to offer a faint hope for a goal. But when the whistle went for the interval, the players trudged off, thankful for some small respite from the scorching heat. The fans, mostly Nigerians and awaiting the big grand final later in the night, hardly seemed to take much notice.

The Spaniards came out looking considerably sharper in the second half, charging forward in search of an opening. Kevin’s cross to big Borja in the 62nd minute looked likely to bring a first goal, but the Atletico Madrid man could only stoop to push his clumsy header wide of the mark. The Colombians didn’t want to be left out of the attacking party either, with Gustavo Cuellar’s cheeky little shot from ten yards forcing a good save out of Edgar in the 69th minute. Just seconds later, the revived South Americans had their best chance of the game when Fabian Castillo waltzed through the Spanish defence only to be thwarted at the last by a sliding Sergi Gomez clearance off the line.

Even with all of the Colombian pressure, it was Spain that found a crucial opening. After 75 minutes of goalless football, Isco’s air shot from just inside the box found its way back to the Valancia man, who made no mistake with the second effort. While Spain earned a place on the podium with the slim result, the Colombians were made to be content with fourth and the knowledge of their fine play at these Nigerian junior world finals.